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Just one look at her son’s face told Joanne some­thing was wrong

Pick Me Up! - - CONTENTS - Joanne Broome, 45, New­big­gin-bythe-sea

My Daniel, 11, was al­ways so chatty and full of life. He wanted to be a bas­ket­ball player when he was older and loved foot­ball and be­ing out­doors.

And he had the big­gest, bright­est grin.

But on 18 Novem­ber last year, Dan walked out of the school gates and I sud­denly felt faint.

My boy looked like he’d had a stroke.

His face was all lop­sided. ‘Are you OK?’ I asked, putting my arm around him.

He nod­ded his head, but my moth­erly in­stinct told me that some­thing was up. ‘Dan, can you smile?’ I asked. He couldn’t.

Some­thing was wrong.

We drove off to pick his sis­ter Charlotte, 14, up from school.

But I couldn’t help but peer at Dan in the rear-view mir­ror.

I kept ask­ing him to smile – but he couldn’t make that trade­mark grin ap­pear.

Ini­tial di­ag­no­sis

‘I feel fine, Mum,’ he in­sisted.

But I drove to my friend’s house to get a sec­ond opin­ion. Was I be­ing para­noid?

She took one look at Dan. ‘Get him checked,’ she said. I rushed him to Northum­bria Spe­cial­ist Emer­gency Care, where they even­tu­ally told me Dan had Bell’s palsy.

It’s a con­di­tion that causes

tem­po­rary weak­ness or paral­y­sis of the mus­cles on one side of the face.

‘Most peo­ple re­cover com­pletely within a year,’ a doc­tor told us.

At least it wasn’t a stroke.

I tried not to worry, but then things started to de­te­ri­o­rate...

Dan was vom­it­ing, he was lethar­gic, could barely walk.

And he still couldn’t smile.

‘This is not Bell’s palsy,’ I cried to my hus­band Joe, 52.

At the Royal Vic­to­ria In­fir­mary a week later, the doc­tor sent Dan for a scan.

And when the re­sults came back...

‘We’ve found a swelling on Dan’s brain,’ the doc­tor said. A brain tu­mour.

I couldn’t be­lieve it as I was told he’d need surgery, chemo.

Four days later, I held his hand tightly as he fell asleep un­der the anaes­thetic be­fore surgery to re­move the tu­mour.

Af­ter­wards, Dan was di­ag­nosed with an ex­tremely rare form of brain can­cer – a non-hodgkin lym­phoma doc­tors at the hospi­tal had never seen be­fore.

Dan was only the sec­ond child in the North­east to have it in the last 25 years.

The 16th child in the world ever! Dev­as­tated, Joe and I gath­ered the fam­ily at the hospi­tal to break the news.

Dan’s sib­lings Ben, 24, Rochelle, 21, and Charlotte were shocked to see their lit­tle brother so poorly.

But I had to keep strong for them.

On 5 De­cem­ber, Dan started his first round of chemo­ther­apy.

‘You’re my lit­tle sol­dier,’ I said as I rocked him in my arms.

But the chemo wasn’t an easy ride.

Dan de­vel­oped blis­ters from his mouth to his bottom.

The pain was im­mense – and, for the first time as a mother, there was noth­ing I could do. He was on huge doses of mor­phine and an­tibi­otics. They were the hard­est months of our lives. Then, in March, we fi­nally got the news we were pray­ing for. ‘The can­cer has gone,’ the doc­tor told us.

I felt numb. Re­lieved – but in­stantly ter­ri­fied the can­cer would come back. Dan en­dured yet more gru­elling chemo – but, in May, he was put into clin­i­cal re­mis­sion. We’re so thank­ful to the staff at the hospi­tal and all the fam­i­lies we met. ‘Wel­come home,’ I grinned as Dan stepped through the front door af­ter six months in hospi­tal. I was thrilled. I knew Dan was happy, too, but his face was ex­pres­sion­less, still un­able to crack that beau­ti­ful grin.

One day...

The can­cer had dam­aged the nerves that con­trol the eyes and mouth. Doc­tors didn’t know when, or even if, he’d ever get it back. His eyes are still not mov­ing prop­erly and his bal­ance and co­or­di­na­tion is dread­ful. He can still only man­age a few hours of school, as he gets so ex­hausted.

But, de­spite all that Dan has been through, he has al­ways kept his bril­liant and bub­bly per­son­al­ity. He wants to put this all be­hind him and get back to school full­time with his friends. He’s such a very brave, happy boy, even if he can’t show it now. And I pray that, one day, we’ll get that smile back.

Dan was vom­it­ing, lethar­gic, he could barely walk

He’s still bub­bly – just can’t show it

My boy’s been so brave

Dan with me, Joe and Charlotte

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