Terminally ill mascot Bradley Lowery celebrates his birthday

He's the young cancer patient who's captured the hearts of sports fans across the country.

And today Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery celebrates his sixth birthday.

Bradley's family confirmed last week that his neuroblastoma has progressed and he is not well enough to travel on a holiday to the US.

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But he will be able to enjoy the company of his hero, Sunderland and England striker Jermain Defoe, at his birthday party.

The international will be a guest at the Lowery family home in Blackhall, County Durham, on Friday.

The pair's touching friendship has seen photos of them together, both in hospital and at Sunderland matches, go viral.

Although Bradley will spend his birthday in hospital, his pain is believed to have stabilised.

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On the Facebook page the family uses to update the thousands of well-wishers, they said: "Bradley is super excited to turn six on Wednesday although he will be spending it in hospital and he is looking forward to his party on Friday."

Bradley has been a mascot for Sunderland and England several times and Defoe carried his young friend onto the pitch at the Stadium of Light for the last match of the season at the weekend.

The brave boy received 315,000 Christmas cards after an appeal went global - and this time, well-wishers are asked not to send a birthday card but to leave him a message online, and if they want, to donate the price of a card.

Any money left over from donations will go towards setting up Bradley's charity which will help other children, his family said.

The site can be found at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/bradsbirthday