‘Kiss your son good­bye’

All could do was tell my lit­tle lad that I loved him...

Chat - - Contents -

It tore me apart that I couldn’t ease his pain

Rolling onto his front and plac­ing his tiny, chubby fists on the floor, my baby Ted beamed.

‘Such a clever boy!’ I cooed, clap­ping as he tried to push him­self up.

At just 5 months old, in Jan­uary 2008, Ted’s de­vel­op­ment was flying.

Hit­ting mile­stones faster than his sib­lings – Ethan, then 9, and Olivia, then 3 – ever had.

Me and his dad John, 42, knew Ted would be a su­per­star.

But, re­cently, he’d had trou­ble with an ear in­fec­tion.

The GP pre­scribed an­tibi­otics, but a month later Ted screamed end­lessly. Cry­ing for 16 hours a day. I was at my wits’ end. And af­ter six months, I no­ticed a change in Ted...

No crawl­ing or pulling him­self up onto the sofa.

‘I think some­thing is re­ally wrong,’ I told the doc­tor. ‘It’ll pass,’ he re­as­sured. I was sent home with an­tibi­otics yet again.

As Ted’s screams rat­tled around the house, my mother’s in­stinct turned my stom­ach into a pit of worry.

I know my son.

Des­per­ate for an­swers, I took him to an­other GP.

Ex­am­in­ing Ted’s tiny body, the doc­tor looked alarmed.

‘His liver is en­larged and his heart is beat­ing a lot faster than it should be,’ she said.

Ted was sent for blood tests – and two hours later, the phone rang. Some­one from the hos­pi­tal. ‘You need to bring Ted in right now,’ she said.

John and I rushed there with him.

‘I’m so sorry, but Ted has cancer,’ the doc­tor re­vealed. ‘Are you sure?’ I gasped. He nod­ded. Ted had acute lym­phoblas­tic leukaemia and just a 20-50 per cent chance of sur­vival.

Glanc­ing at Ted’s lit­tle face, so in­no­cent, I broke down.

He started chemo­ther­apy straight away at Great Or­mond Street Hos­pi­tal, and we jug­gled be­ing with him and Ethan and Olivia.

Olivia was too young to un­der­stand what was go­ing on.

But when we told Ethan that his baby brother was ill, he started to draw a pic­ture.

A green and blue planet, with dozens of stars in the sky above it.

‘We’re all on the world and Ted’s go­ing to be in the stars when he dies,’ he said.

Goose­bumps raced up and down my arms.

The chemo took its toll and Ted lost weight, was of­ten sick. His sparkle faded and he was lethar­gic, clingy.

Some­times, noth­ing I did brought him com­fort.

It tore me apart that I couldn’t ease his pain.

In and out of hos­pi­tal, Ted was barely at home.

When he was 18 months old, I fell preg­nant.

With ev­ery­thing that had been go­ing on, it was the last thing we’d ex­pected.

Des­per­ate for some fam­ily time, we set off with Ted and the kids to Bar­row-in-fur­ness, for a visit to their granny.

A quick es­cape for some fresh air.

But as we drove, Ted was vi­o­lently sick, again and again.

At the lo­cal hos­pi­tal, he was di­ag­nosed with E.coli in his blad­der.

Hasn’t he been through enough?

We rushed back to Great Or­mond Street, where Ted was ad­mit­ted to the cancer ward.

In the mid­dle of the night, he let out a blood-cur­dling scream, turned blue in the face and be­gan con­vuls­ing.

‘What’s hap­pen­ing?’ I cried.

The doc­tor’s face was grave.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘It’s pos­si­ble he may not make it. Please say your good­byes.’ I couldn’t be­lieve what I was hear­ing.

Is this re­ally hap­pen­ing?

Kiss­ing Ted’s tiny head, I stroked his hand, say­ing the words that punched a hole through my chest.

‘Good­bye, baby, I love you,’ I whis­pered...

Luck­ily, the doc­tors man­aged to sta­bilise him.

It turned out the in­fec­tion had pushed his weak­ened im­mune sys­tem to the brink.

‘We were so close to los­ing him,’ I sobbed to John.

‘I know,’ he said, eyes wide. A mir­a­cle.

Months of chemo­ther­apy then fol­lowed. It was re­lent­less. When baby Eleanor ar­rived in Novem­ber 2009, our lives were torn be­tween the hos­pi­tal and home.

And when Ted was fi­nally dis­charged, life was any­thing but nor­mal.

His bat­tered im­mune sys­tem meant that he was al­ways ill. A cold floored him for weeks, he suf­fered from chronic fa­tigue, and he of­ten had to use a wheel­chair. Ted’s child­hood had been torn apart by cancer. Some­times I won­dered if things would ever get bet­ter. But, in March 2015, we got the all-clear. Ted was fi­nally in re­mis­sion! Staff handed Ted a lit­tle plas­tic medal for be­ing so brave. ‘Thank you,’ he beamed. It was a sweet ges­ture. My mind drifted back to that aw­ful night, when I’d kissed my baby good­bye. I never thought this day would fi­nally ar­rive. But look­ing at the medal later, so flimsy and dull, it just didn’t seem fit­ting. Ted had waged a mas­sive bat­tle against cancer…and won! He de­served so much more. Re­search­ing on­line, I found an Amer­i­can or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­vides beads and arty fun for kids bat­tling cancer, while also sup­port­ing their fam­i­lies. I con­tacted the or­gan­is­ers – and, to­gether with an­other par­ent Diane Watt, we set about bring­ing it to the UK. It took time, but Beads of Courage UK is now a reg­is­tered char­ity, open in ev­ery On­col­ogy unit in the coun­try. It means kids aren’t go­ing to hos­pi­tal solely for chemo or nee­dles. They can have some fun, too. A ray of sun­shine in what can feel like an over­whelm­ing abyss. Now Ted is 11 and thriv­ing. He loves foot­ball, Liver­pool FC, hang­ing out with his friends. Just like any other child his age. You’d never know he was once a cancer pa­tient, fight­ing for his life.

Look­ing back, I’m so grate­ful that I fol­lowed my in­stincts. Fought for a di­ag­no­sis. Now Ted’s an am­bas­sador for the char­ity, wants to give back. He says, ‘There are kids un­luck­ier than me.’

De­spite miss­ing al­most ev­ery day of Re­cep­tion, Ted’s now thriv­ing at se­condary school.

Ob­sessed with space and the plan­ets, he begged us for a te­le­scope at Christ­mas.

Of course, we said yes. Ted de­serves the world.

Look­ing out at the stars, I am grate­ful ev­ery day that he’s not one of them, like Ethan had pre­dicted.

He’s right here, where he should be.

You’d never know he was once fight­ing for his life

So poorly...

Lit­tle Ted with his dad and me

Ted with the beads that chart his road to re­cov­ery

Foot­ball crazy and rais­ing aware­ness

Ted, now 11 and thriv­ing, with his dad

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.