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Our baby beating cancer is the greatest gift this Christmas

ANDREW COLLIER A year after his diagnoses Callum is now looking forward to Christmas Instead of getting used to life as a ...

Our Baby Beating Cancer Is The Greatest Gift This ChristmasANDREW COLLIER
A year after his diagnoses Callum is now looking forward to Christmas
Instead of getting used to life as a family of four (they also have a four-year-old son Lucas) and looking forward to spending their first Christmas together, Callum was admitted to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, where he was to stay for the next 40 days while he had intensive chemotherapy.
Although he has now beaten the disease and celebrated his first birthday, the impact on his family has been devastating.
“We have travelled a long and hard road this year,” says Danny, 25, from Northwich, Cheshire.
“But the progress Callum has made since last Christmas is amazing. We’re so proud of our brave baby boy and how we’ve all come together as a family to support him.”
We never even got the chance to have Christmas dinner that year as Callum went straight back to hospital for more chemotherapy
Dad Danny Tolley
After developing a severe chest infection when he was just a few weeks old, Callum was admitted to hospital for blood and bone marrow tests and within days he had been diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).
ALL is a cancer of the white blood cells that begins in the bone marrow. It can affect young people of any age but it is most common in children aged one to four. Provided it is diagnosed quickly, survival rates for this type of cancer are good.
In those aged 14 or younger, nine out of 10 will beat the disease.
Alder Hey Hospital - Our Baby Beating Cancer Is The Greatest Gift This ChristmasGOOGLE
Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpoool
“When Callum started his induction chemotherapy, it was really tough,” says Danny, an IT engineer.
“He was given steroids which caused him to feed a lot more often and the intense chemotherapy caused a chemical burn on his bottom which required urgent treatment from a specialist.”
Because Lucas, then three, had chickenpox when Callum was taken into hospital, the family were forced to spend Christmas apart as Callum’s immune system was so fragile and they couldn’t risk an outbreak on the ward.
“We ended up celebrating Christmas a week late, away from home,” says Danny.
“We never even got the chance to have Christmas dinner that year as Callum went straight back to hospital for more chemotherapy.”
Family photo - Our Baby Beating Cancer Is The Greatest Gift This ChristmasNC
Brother Lucas, mum Natalie, dad Danny and baby Callum
Danny says the emotional impact of Callum’s illness has taken its toll emotionally on the whole family, particularly Lucas who became very anxious about what was happening to his baby brother.
“Lucas started bed-wetting and couldn’t sleep at night. He was vomiting without a medical reason and we believe that it was because he was anxious about his brother. I don’t think the effect on siblings is highlighted enough,” explains Danny.
“His understanding of everything has been limited. He was three when Callum was diagnosed and he’s only four now but he’s quite mature, so after a while we learnt to be clear with him about what was happening. He began to understand that his mummy needed to go away to help Callum.”
Danny says that without the help of their CLIC Sargent social worker Rachel, his family would have fallen apart.
“The charity helped us apply for benefits and grants that helped us manage the extra expenses while Callum has been ill.
“Natalie was still on maternity leave when Callum was diagnosed so Rachel helped us to get the money we need to cover costs while Natalie couldn’t work. She also helped us to apply for housing benefit to cover our rent, which was a big relief, and helped us to apply for Disability Living Allowance (DLA). She has been fantastic.”
In June, six months after his treatment started, Callum had a Minimal Residual Disease test, which detects the number of cancer cells remaining in a patient’s body and the results were used to decide whether or not Callum would need a bone marrow transplant.
“It came back completely negative,” says Danny.
“We were so relieved. It meant that six months of pumping him full of drugs and seeing our baby in pain, was worth it, the chemotherapy was working.
“We were lucky but he still had to finish two more cycles of intensive chemotherapy which wiped him out.
Oral Chemotherapy chemicals - Our Baby Beating Cancer Is The Greatest Gift This ChristmasGETTY
Callum now only requires oral chemotherapy
“One of the cycles involved a drug called methotrexate which gave Callum lots of ulcers in his mouth, throat and gullet. He screamed in pain for a whole week and was close to being put on a morphine and ketamine sedative but then one day he woke up and he was fine.”
Callum is now on oral chemotherapy, which is sometimes called maintenance chemotherapy, until March 2017.
“He really is incredible,” says Danny.
“Last Christmas there were times when we thought we would never get to see our baby boy crawl. Now we’re looking forward to spending our first Christmas together as a family.
“All of our close family are coming along to help Callum, Lucas, Natalie and me celebrate the Christmas that we didn’t get to have last year.”
On December 23 Callum is due to have a lumbar puncture when he will have some more chemotherapy and have his spinal fluid tested for any residual signs of cancer.
“We have our fingers crossed that on the same day he’ll be able to have the central line in his chest removed,” says Danny.
“That’s the tube that’s been used to administer all the chemotherapy he’s been on and other drugs. That would really be the best Christmas present ever.”
CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people and their families, providing clinical, practical and emotional support to help them cope with cancer and get the most out of life. To donate to the charity’s 2015 Christmas appeal visit: http://www.clicsargent.org.uk/donate

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