Friday, 22 February 2019

Award for boy who fought back after cancer surgery

Award for boy who fought back after cancer surgery

A BOY from Charvil who had a brain tumour the size of a golf ball removed from his neck is now thriving.

Joseph Parker, five, was diagnosed with cancer in September 2016 and days later underwent a six-hour operation to remove the growth.

He then had months of high-dose chemotherapy treatment.

Now he is just like any other little boy, playing football with his friends and enjoying his second year at Charvil Piggott Primary School.

Joseph has also received an award for his bravery.

His mother said: “He loves being at school, playing football and generally anything sporty. There is nothing that gets him down — he really is a star.”

Joseph, who lives in Wenlock Edge with his parents Steph and Chris and brother Zach, eight, first showed signs of illness when he was three.

He started suffering frequent headaches which left him pale and tired and then physically sick as they became progressively worse.

Mrs Parker recalled: “The headaches were so severe they were literally stopping him in his tracks. Until then he had been in perfect health.

“He was a typical toddler, running around at 100mph, so at first I thought he had fallen off something but by the end of two weeks he was being sick.”

She took Joseph to the doctor who advised giving him paracetamol but when the headaches persisted she took him to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. Mrs Parker said: “We went to the doctor after one of these strange episodes and they weren’t sure what it was.

“The very next morning he woke up and it was back again and he was so pale, we knew something wasn’t right. He was sick on arrival at the hospital.

“They did all the tests. Often with tumours you can see something behind the eyes but they didn’t see anything until the MRI scan.”

Mrs Parker was stunned to discover her son had a tumour.

She said: “We had not really had many dealings with cancer in the family so I couldn’t really contemplate that could be the cause.

“It was such a shock to be told. It was not what I was expecting for a little boy with no other health issues.

“It’s such a rare thing, you don’t think it’s going to happen in your life. The bottom drops out of your world.”

Joseph was referred to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford where the family met the neurosurgeon to talk about the operation.

Mrs Parker said: “We were told there was a risk he could wake up after the surgery and be unable to walk or talk. You just have to hope for the best.

“We had no choice. In a way it was a positive thing that we just had to move forward with it.

“We tried to be as open as possible because we had to explain it to our other son as well and we didn’t know how long it was going to go on for. Because Joseph was that age he didn’t question it as much. If it had happened now he would have had a different approach.”

After the operation Joseph spent five days in the high dependence unit but showed no side-effects from the surgery.

Mrs Parker said: “Often when they do something to your brain it goes into shutdown mode. You don’t speak for a while and funny things like that. But Joseph woke up and immediately asked for a bit of toast!

“When his brother came in to speak to him and show him some Lego that was it, he wasn’t lying down in that bed. He wanted to be up and in the playroom with the other children!”

Joseph’s chemotherapy treatment continued until May 2017 and he still has regular MRI scans to monitor his progress.

Mrs Parker says it is impossible now to tell what he has been through by watching him.

She said: “To look at him now, you would never think it had happened. He’s very fit and healthy and plays football.”

Joseph, who is a Portsmouth FC fan, started at the primary school, where his brother is also a pupil, exactly a year to the day after being diagnosed.

Last month, he was given a Star Award by Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens for the bravery he showed during his ordeal.

He received a trophy, a £50 TK Maxx gift card and a T-shirt as well as a certificate signed by actress Emma Thompson and singers Una Healy and Peter Andre.

Zach was given a certificate for helping to support his brother.

Joseph was nominated for the award by his parents.

Mrs Parker said: “He was so chuffed with it. His bigger brother has a few trophies from football and this was the first time he was able to say ‘this is mine’.

“It was signed by people he sees on TV. It’s a great reminder for us when we have to go back into the hospital. It shows we have to be brave and just go because that’s just our life now.”

Jenny Makin, of Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens in Berkshire, said: “Joseph is a real star. It has been an absolute privilege to be able to recognise his courage by giving him a Star Award.

“Cancer can have a devastating impact on children and young people and many of those who survive may live with serious long-term side effects from their treatment.

“Our mission is to fund research to find new, better and kinder treatments for young cancer patients in the South East and across the UK.

“We want to bring forward the day when every child and young person survives cancer and does so with a good quality of life.

“We’re encouraging people to nominate inspirational youngsters for this year’s Star Awards so we can give more awards to children like Joseph who are affected by cancer.”

The awards are open to all under-18s who have cancer or have been treated for the disease in the last five years.

For more information, visit www.cruk.org/kidsandteens

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