Fight­ing with a smile

Told her lit­tle boy was con­sti­pated, Katie Carter, 30, from Hull, had no idea of the true bat­tle that lay ahead

Pick Me Up! - - CONTENTS -

Daniel had been off school and seemed in more pain than ever

My youngest son Daniel snug­gled up close to me. ‘It hurts, Mummy,’ he said, cry­ing and rub­bing his belly.

It was early 2016, and Daniel was then 5 years old.

He hadn’t been able to go to the toi­let for a cou­ple of days.

All he wanted was cud­dles with Mummy – it wasn’t like Daniel at all.

He was usu­ally a bois­ter­ous lit­tle boy. A happy chap, al­ways want­ing to get stuck in with his older broth­ers David, then 7, and Liam, 6.

Now, he didn’t want to play and there was no sign of his cheeky grin.

Wor­ried, I de­cided to take him to the doc­tor’s.

Think­ing Daniel just had a tummy ache, they sug­gested we try giv­ing him Calpol.

But we were soon back at the surgery with the same prob­lem.

This time, we were given lax­a­tive sa­chets in the hope they’d ease his con­sti­pa­tion.

‘They’re not work­ing,’ my hus­band Kevin, then 29, said after a cou­ple of weeks.

He was right, Daniel had been off school and seemed in more pain than ever.

For the next few months, we were back and forth from the doc­tor’s, but they were baf­fled. Noth­ing we tried helped. ‘Maybe we should get a sec­ond opin­ion,’ I said to Kevin.

By then, Daniel was in so much pain he couldn’t get up and walk.

We took him to a new GP, where the doc­tor felt his stom­ach and gave him a check-up.

‘Some­thing’s not quite right,’ the doc­tor warned. ‘You need to go straight to A&E.’

Pan­ick­ing, I jumped in a taxi with Daniel and my older boys, and we rushed to Hull Royal Hospi­tal.

Kevin joined us there, and Daniel was seen straight­away.

‘We just need to lis­ten to his chest,’ one doc­tor told us.

But soon, more doc­tors swarmed round Daniel’s bed as we waited for a di­ag­no­sis.

It was painful, not know­ing what was go­ing on while medics fussed over our boy.

Daniel was kept in for tests for a few days, be­fore he was whisked off for a CT scan.

‘It’s some­thing bad, I know it,’ I sobbed to Kevin.

‘At least they’re tak­ing it se­ri­ously,’ he said, hold­ing me.

That night, as we waited for the scan re­sults, I couldn’t sleep.

What was wrong with our lit­tle boy?

The next day we went in to see Daniel’s doc­tor, shak­ing with nerves.

‘We’re re­ally sorry to tell you, but Daniel has a large can­cer­ous tu­mour on his chest and spine,’ he said.

‘No!’ I wept, dev­as­tated. Our poor boy hadn’t had con­sti­pa­tion, or a tummy ache. He had can­cer!

We found out it was rare neu­rob­las­toma, at the high­est, most ag­gres­sive Stage 4.

And the worst part was that doc­tors said he’d been liv­ing

My poor boy was paral­ysed and would never walk again

with it for the past two years.

The can­cer had spread to his pelvis and un­der his arms.

Wip­ing away my tears, I could barely look at Daniel in his hospi­tal bed.

He was so small and in­no­cent, yet so very sick.

‘We need to take you to a spe­cial hospi­tal,’ Kevin fi­nally told him, with tears in his eyes. ‘We need to make you better.’

Daniel needed an op­er­a­tion to re­move the tu­mour straight­away.

A few days later, my par­ents looked after David and Liam, while Daniel was taken to Leeds Gen­eral In­fir­mary.

The next day, as our lit­tle boy clutched his teddy bear, I was heart­bro­ken to see his con­fused face as he was wheeled down to the the­atre. I was a wreck.

As the tu­mour was sit­ting on Daniel’s spine, the 12-hour surgery was com­pli­cated.

‘How did it go?’ I asked, as soon as the doc­tor emerged. But it wasn’t good news. They’d man­aged to re­move most of it, but the tu­mour had dam­aged his spinal cord.

It meant that Daniel was paral­ysed from the waist down. ‘My poor boy!’ I wept. He’d never walk again and would spend the rest of his life in a wheel­chair.

But there was no time to come to terms with the shat­ter­ing news, as Daniel needed to start in­tense chemo­ther­apy. ‘Daniel is poorly, but doc­tors are giv­ing him spe­cial medicine to make him better,’ we told the older boys.

‘Will he lose his hair?’ Liam asked. ‘Maybe,’ I replied. I knew the an­swer was yes, but I didn’t want to scare Daniel.

He was started on a low dose of chemo to see how his body would re­spond.

His hair did fall out and it was hard watch­ing him get so sick.

Then doc­tors de­cided to put him on a higher dose.

It was tough on us all. While Daniel was in Leeds, with Kevin at his bed­side, I was look­ing after Liam and David at home in Hull. It was so hard be­ing apart.

But I took the boys to see their Back home with me and Kevin brother of­ten and they played as though Daniel wasn’t even ill.

De­spite ev­ery­thing, his face would light up when­ever he saw them.

That cheeky smile of his was never far away, even through the hard­est of times.

But the treat­ment was bru­tal. ‘Doc­tors say the next round of chemo could put him into In­ten­sive Care!’ Kevin cried to me on the phone, a few weeks after the surgery.

Watch­ing our boy have painful chemo was heart­break­ing. But he was a real trouper, gig­gling and smil­ing through his treat­ment.

Luck­ily, Daniel was strong and, by Fe­bru­ary 2017, he’d made it through the chemo. And after that he had three weeks of ra­di­a­tion.

Then CT scans showed the can­cer was be­ing kept at bay.

By March 2017, he was no longer hav­ing treat­ment and we were so re­lieved that he could fi­nally come back home.

But Daniel still had to cope with life in a wheel­chair.

He’d al­ways loved the out­doors and play­ing with his broth­ers, so that sum­mer, we moved, hop­ing to ren­o­vate the gar­den for him.

But after ev­ery­thing we’d been through, we didn’t have the time or money. Then we were ap­proached by a lo­cal char­ity, called Nice 2B Nice.

It said it could help us raise the money – £9,000 to con­vert Daniel’s gar­den into an ac­ces­si­ble and safe play area for him.

We made a video on­line to help raise aware­ness. It was full of pic­tures of Daniel smil­ing in his hospi­tal bed, mess­ing about with his broth­ers and hug­ging his doc­tors and nurses.

It re­ally brought home how brave he’d been and, in no time, the money was raised and the work be­gan.

Daniel’s eyes lit up as soon as he saw his new gar­den and now he loves play­ing in it. His broth­ers are so lovely with him. But we all have dif­fi­cult days. ‘Why am I in a wheel­chair?’ Daniel asks me some­times, and it’s hard for me to find the right words.

He still doesn’t quite un­der­stand when I tell him it was be­cause of a tu­mour.

He’s gone back to school, but only for an hour a day.

Soon he’ll move to a more spe­cialised school which is de­signed for wheel­chair ac­cess.

He’ll con­tinue to have scans ev­ery three months, but he has to have the all-clear for five years be­fore he’s of­fi­cially in re­mis­sion.

For now, we’re just tak­ing it one day at a time.

We’ll try to make his life as or­di­nary as pos­si­ble.

But, most of all, we’re so glad that he’s come out the other side of can­cer.

So many peo­ple don’t sur­vive what Daniel’s been through.

Our brave, smi­ley lit­tle boy is back at home where he be­longs. That’s the only thing that re­ally mat­ters.

Daniel with David (left) and Liam My lit­tle trouper

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