That Christmas, everything felt like a miracle
Desperate for Zayn to have the potentially life-saving treatment, Anwar and I knew we would have to find the money for private treatment. It was a lot of money. But we were willing to do anything to save our boy.
Our families kindly loaned us some money just to hold the date of the surgery, while we launched a fundraising appeal for the bulk of the cost.
We opened a crowdfunding page and posted Zayn’s story on social media.
Incredibly, within just a week, we’d raised £53,000 to pay for the treatment.
I’m not ashamed to admit I sobbed, overwhelmed by the generosity of the public.
We travelled to Amsterdam, where Zayn had surgery to remove the tumour on 20 November 2017.
During the operation, surgeons inserted wires into his jaw.
These were used to deliver radiotherapy directly into the tumour site every two hours for three days.
To avoid infection, he had to stay in isolation the entire time, while we waited outside.
Although doctors and nurses were caring for him, it was agonising hearing him cry.
Not being able to comfort him...
Afterwards, Zayn had reconstructive surgery using muscle from his back.
He was left with scars snaking up his back and around his jaw.
But he soon bounced back and was toddling around the ward with Razak, smiley as always.
‘Our brave little lion,’ I beamed, holding him close.
We finally returned home on 20 December 2017, just in time for Christmas.
It felt extra special to do the simplest things.
Cooking Christmas dinner, decorating the tree. Everything felt like a miracle.
The boys could feel how special it was, too. It was almost like the house was filled with magic.
In the New Year, Zayn was closely monitored and started six months of low-dose chemotherapy as a precaution.
His scars soon healed and he was full of energy.
And in May this year, a scan brought wonderful news.
‘We can’t find a trace of cancer in Zayn’s body,’ the doctor told us. We wept with joy. Sadly, Zayn’s hearing was impaired because he’d had his right ear canal removed during surgery, after the tumour had grown into it.
But he never let it hold him back.
Every morning, he’d wake up grinning, happy to be at home instead of hospital!
When he started nursery with Razak, they rushed in happily, side by side.
‘It looks like you’ve enjoyed yourself,’ I laughed when I collected him.
Looking at him now, with a mop of hair and chubby cheeks, you would never think he’d been so ill. He’s a ball of energy and mischief, loves climbing frames and playing football. This year, we went on our first family holiday – to Alicante, Spain – and Zayn loved splashing in the pool. A world away from the poorly little baby in hospital with the huge tumour on his face. We want his story to be a comfort to families whose children have cancer. Things can and do get better. So, never give up hope.