Football mascot Bradley Lowery will celebrate his sixth birthday in hospital on Wednesday ahead of a big party with his best friend Jermain Defoe.
The terminally-ill boy, whose battle with the rare childhood cancer neuroblastoma has touched people around the world, had been in great pain lately, his family said.
But they said he is feeling "a little better" and the pain is improving slowly during his stay in hospital.
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."
There will be a party in his home village of Blackhall, County Durham, on Friday, and England striker Defoe will be there.
On his birthday itself, family members will be with him in hospital to hold a tea party.
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 justgiving.com.
The family has delayed plans to go on holiday to the US with Bradley as he is currently not well enough to travel.