Chat health

My son didn’t have can­cer. Good news – or was it..?

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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 stut­tered.

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

con­fused with

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

were re­luc­tant

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

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