How a stolen champagne bottle symbolised a family's fight against cancer

Peter Blandford's son was in remission from a rare form of cancer when the bottle was stolen.

The father of a boy who suffered from two bouts of cancer has shared the unlikely story of how a symbolic bottle of champagne was recovered against all odds after being stolen.

Christian Blandford, then 18 months old, was diagnosed with a clear cell sarcoma of the kidney – a rare and aggressive form of childhood cancer – in 2005.

Peter Blandford with two sons
Peter Blandford and Christian (right) and another of his sons (Peter Blandford/ the Christian Blandford Fund)

After a year of treatment he was given the all-clear, but relapsed in November 2006 when the cancer spread to a bone in his leg, requiring further intensive treatment.

Christian’s father Peter, 48, kept a bottle of 1990 Bollinger to be opened when Christian reached five years in remission. But with a couple of years still to go before that moment, the bottle was stolen from their home.

“It was something that had been sitting around in the cellar,” Peter told the Press Association.

I was very kindly given this bottle of Champagne by a friend before Christian was first diagnosed with cancer. When…

Posted by The Christian Blandford Fund on Monday, March 25, 2019

“It was quite a special bottle that someone had given me a few years earlier, and we never thought we’d open it.”

In a Facebook post, Peter, from Sevenoaks, Kent, wrote of the incident: “The burglars went off with most of my photographic equipment, some of Claudia’s jewelry (sic) and a few of bottles of wine, including this one,” attaching an image of the Bollinger.

For a time the bottle seemed lost, but in a twist of fate a police officer who had knowledge of the case chanced upon it while investigating a completely different case, recovering the bottle from a fridge in south-east London.

The Blandford family
The Blandford family on holiday in 2017(Peter Blandford/ the Christian Blandford Fund)

“The suspects’ finger prints matched ones taken from our property and the guys were charged and proven guilty a few months later,” Peter wrote on Facebook.

“It was kind of amusing that it was pretty much the only thing that came back,” he added.

Some years later in September 2012, Christian reached five years in remission against odds of 20 to one, and the bottle was finally opened after a journey of its own.

Christian Blandford
Christian Blandford (Peter Blandford/ the Christian Blandford Fund)

“It seemed like the bottle for a while was bringing bad luck – actually, it turned out to bring some good luck,” said Peter.

“It’s a symbol of how life can turn around from a very dark period, when it looks like there’s no good outcome, and actually turn out for the best.”

Christian is now 15 and plays the piano as well as writing his own computer games which receive millions of views online.

Christian Blandford playing piano
Christian playing piano (Peter Blandford/ the Christian Blandford Fund)

Furthermore, the Christian Blandford Fund, set up to “improve the comfort of children and their families, particularly those affected by cancer, during prolonged stays in local NHS hospitals” last year raised £100,000 to help renovate the children’s wards at St George’s Hospital in Tooting.

Christian has been out of remission for more than six years now – when he reaches adulthood, there’s one drink that will certainly be on the cards.

“For his 18th birthday there will definitely be a glass of champagne raised,” said Peter.

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