My son didn’t have cancer. Good news – or was it..?
Dawn Revell, 48, Berkshire
Whizzing down the hill was a distinctive green bike, and the boy behind the bars – my son Seb.
Active and always up to mischief, he wouldn’t slow down for a second.
Only one day after rugby in late 2016, he looked ready to collapse. Knees muddy, his face was as white as a sheet and he was shaking. ‘Hard practice?’ I asked. ‘Yeah… I really ache,’ he said, stretching his back.
I reckoned he’d be fine after a good night’s sleep.
But as the months passed, he kept complaining of the same things...
Tiredness and aching joints. And he was always pale.
So I made an appointment at the surgery for the day after Seb’s 14th birthday in February 2017.
‘You need to take him straight to hospital,’ the doctor said.
‘What? As in, to stay?’
I had a million questions, but I left the room in a fluster.
Arriving at Frimley Park Hospital, Seb was admitted immediately.
They started taking blood samples, checking his body for bruising.
I’d worked as a social worker, helping in hospitals, and I recognised the tests…
‘Do you think he has some form of blood cancer?’ I asked, frantic with worry. Days later, I had an answer. ‘We do think Seb has leukaemia,’ I was told.
At least I knew what leukaemia was. Seb could fight this, and he could win.
They needed to confirm how far along his cancer was, so he had a bone-marrow biopsy.
At the end of February, the results came back. It wasn’t cancer. Good news, you might think.
But, instead, Seb had aplastic anaemia. Often
leukaemia, it’s an extremely rare and serious blood-cell deficiency. Those with it have low immunity, meaning it can be deadly.
The only hope of a cure... a bone-marrow transplant.
The chances of an identical match within a family are 50/50. Neither me nor my husband Justin, 48, were a match and Seb was an only child.
All we could do was wait for a match with a stranger.
We teamed up with the Anthony Nolan charity in the hope of finding a donor sooner, and Aplastic Anaemia Trust for advice and support. But it was a rocky ride.
Seb had to drop out of school. He had appendicitis – which doctors
to operate on – and needed chemo and more meds than you could count.
I watched my happy, outgoing boy slipping away. Prayed we’d find a donor.
Thankfully, in August, three matches were found – one of which was here in the UK.
So on 1 September 2017, Seb was taken for the op. ‘He’s a fighter,’ I told Justin. I knew it’d take months, maybe years, until Seb was fully fit again. But he had determination in his eyes.
Things weren’t immediately back to normal. His body could reject the donor cells at any time. But each day that he was OK was a blessing.
By June this year, Seb was able to spend half-days at school.
We even got him out on his
bike for a short while.
‘God, I’ve missed this,’ he said. ‘Don’t overdo it,’ I pleaded. I won’t ever stop worrying. This transplant could work for life or he may need another.
Right now, I’m just thankful for any kind of normality – baking a chocolate cake, hearing Seb laughing in the front room.
It’s not been easy, but we’re moving onwards and upwards.
Seb’s a fighter –I could see it in his eyes