Alex Novakovic’s mother remembers getting a note from a church last year which said ‘there’s always hope at Christmas time’.
Her first thought was ‘there’s no hope for me this Christmas’.
“But actually, I was so, so wrong,” she now admits.
The family spent last Christmas in hospital, fearing at one point that Alex, who turns eight this month, had only days to live because of a brain tumour.
Now the picture is very different. Alex, his father Rad and mother Jasmin are preparing to spend Christmas at home with family and friends, the Bedgrove boy is on the road to recovery after life-saving therapy in America and they are all hopeful of spending many more festive seasons together.
Alex said of their Christmas plans: “We’re going to have lots of fun. I think it will be fabulous.”
Mrs Novakovic admits they really feared last year would be Alex’s last Christmas.
Mr Novakovic added: “It was very difficult, not just for Alex, but for the children and the rest of the family. We were restricted to the amount of people that could be there. Also, not knowing the time-date exactly on Alex’s survival.
“It was bleak news and if we could go back now we would never imagine that we would be in this situation where we are now. The thing that we’ve learnt the most is not to give up. Always try your best, pray and hope.”
The first most people will have heard of Alex was an appeal on a flyer, over the radio or in The Bucks Herald asking for help raising £255,000 in 12 days so he could travel to the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for proton therapy.
It seemed like an impossible task. But then something incredible happened.
People around Aylesbury and further afield took the cause to their hearts and began to fundraise like nothing many had ever seen before.
From cakes sales and wear a hat to school days to a man spending 24 hours up a tree and collection buckets, people thought of every and any way to help, with celebrities doing their bit to spread the word.
The cash target was raised in just one week in what became the most remarkable story of the year.
Mr Novakovic said: “At the time we thought family and close friends and associates would help us, but the way Aylesbury responded – communities, schools and further afield – it was great, it was wonderful.
“It also enabled us to achieve the right treatment for Alex which was the main concern.”
Having the support of the community also gave the family a positive vibe.
Mrs Novakovic said: “It’s just wonderful to know that so many people are rallying behind Alex.
“Of course his family are but it’s lovely to know there’s a wider circle out there all supporting him, wanting him to do well and recover fully and go on to have a really good life.”
Once the money had been raised, Alex travelled to Boston with his mother and spent several weeks being treated.
While over there he got to enjoy the sights of the city and even met the stars of the Boston Red Sox baseball team.
The early signs after the treatment were positive and a series of scans have continued to give the family hope, with Alex’s tumour virtually gone.
There are more tests to come, but for now the family are looking forward to spending Christmas at home together.
Alex said: “It was really hard to go through but I did it and I’m so proud to have Christmas here now.”
Alex has become something of a celebrity in Aylesbury, and even turned on the town’s Christmas lights last month. So what would the new star like from Father Christmas this year?
“I would like toys, lots of toys, like remote controlled cars and guns,” he said.