Louis was just 19 months old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Mum, Claire, tells us how this news devastated her family.
“We’d had a lovely holiday in France with our 19 month old twins, Louis and Grace. But on our return, Louis wasn’t himself. There were dark red bruises on his body and he looked pale, tired, had no appetite and was waking a lot in the night. Within five days he had 30 small bruises all over his body and he was sent for blood tests.
On 10th September 2009, after just five days of feeling 'under the weather', Louis was diagnosed with leukaemia. After a bone marrow aspirate on 15th September we were told it was acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
As you can imagine, our whole world instantly fell apart and we were devastated. Louis however, reacted remarkably to all of this and always has a smile to give.
We arrived at hospital on Friday 11th September and within hours the night nurse had fallen in love with him. He would blow kisses at the nurses, shake hands with the doctors, laugh and tickle them and he fell in love with the night nurse, Tiffany, or Tiff-Tiff as Louis called her.
We have received such love and support from friends, family and strangers alike.
Since then, he has shown such courage and strength of character, which is what will get us through this. We have received such love and support from friends, family and strangers alike.
If we are sure of one thing, it's that Louis will fight this and he will get better. His fighting spirit is getting stronger the older he gets.
He's been on treatment for 20 months now and he battles on each day without a fuss. He does fight us terribly when he has bloods done or chemo when he has to be held down, but we have always seen this as a positive thing.
As we see it, that's him fighting the leukaemia with that same determination - and Louis will win the fight.
Louis’ treatment will finish in November 2012. Most of his treatment so far has been as an outpatient but he gets infections roughly every six weeks and we then have to be admitted for three day spells for tests and antibiotics.
We decided to set up a website as a way of updating everyone in one go. We want to make sure the majority of our time is devoted to Grace and Louis and focusing on getting Louis better.
Grace, Louis' big sister
Grace has been a huge part of this. She greets him with a hug and a kiss and a massive smile. When they're apart, when Louis is in hospital, she makes cakes for him and always speaks to him on the phone to say goodnight and good morning.
They miss each other terribly but have adapted so well over the past 20 months. Because they were so little when it first happened, they have grown up with it. It's just part of our lives now.
Grace recently told me ‘my little brother has leukaemia’. We never speak about Louis’ leukaemia in front of them and we have always been mindful not to leave her out, so she does come to all the hospital appointments and is very much a part of his treatment. Being three, and a typical little girl, she must have heard the phrase somewhere and copied it.
Making a difference
Lots of people have asked what they can do to help. Louis has had several blood and platelet transfusions and all we would say is, if you are able, please give blood as a small way of helping.
If we are sure of one thing, it's that Louis will fight this and he will get better - we have no doubt.
We’ve also been doing lots of different things to raise money for Children with Cancer UK and everyone’s been so generous.
So far we’ve raised over £16,500 towards the important research they’re funding. Family and friends have done this by running a half marathon, the London Marathon, a 10K run and a sponsored sky dive.
We would like to say a massive thank you to our family and friends who have supported us so far. We will get through this and Louis will be a 'normal' little boy by the time he starts school.
Four years later – update on Louis
It's now 2013 and four years after Louis was diagnosed with ALL and he is now in remission – hooray!
He has four more years of remission to go but we are really positive and hopeful all will be fine. He looks amazing, full of cheek, mischief and energy like any other five year old. He loves school, street dancing, children's parties and after-school clubs.
Learning to live with Louis being on treatment was a big adjustment. The hardest thing was not being able to plan anything for fear of disappointment. Louis would be fine all day, spike a temperature and then spend three days in hospital.
We tried as much as possible to lead a normal life.
The beginning of treatment involved chemotherapy. Major events in this treatment block included:
- Louis' hair falling out
- putting a nasal gastric tube in (as he wouldn't eat)
- booking our first break away for my Dads 60th, and managing to go
- starting nursery
- being a Page Boy at two weddings
- starting school
- taking the nasal gastric tube out three and a half years later - that was a very emotional day for all of us.
A year on, Louis is stronger and healthier than ever. He is very cheeky, funny, head strong and really loves being outside. I think he got used to this on treatment as it was the safest place not to catch germs. Nothing fazes him. He is great with new people, new situations and environments and I think he will go through life with nothing standing in his way.
Grace and Louis now have a nine month old baby sister - a real gift at the end of such a difficult time for our family. Rosie is spoilt daily with kisses, cuddles and attention and she was a perfect addition to our family at a time when we needed to learn to be normal again.
We will never take the simple things in life for granted and we cherish all our family time.
July 2015, two and a half years into remission!
Louis is now two and a half years into remission and it's is hard to believe that he ever had leukaemia. He is now seven and a half years old and loves: playing outside, football, Beavers, Climbing trees, parties, cycling, scooting and swimming.
It is so nice to see him enjoy things he could never do on treatment. He never stops eating, which I thought I would never see. He had a Nasal Gastric tube for three and a half years because he would not eat on treatment. He’s now gained half a stone in seven months which is the first significant weight gain since treatment finished in 2012!
He had a check-up last week and the consultant was delighted with him and all is well. He is doing really well at school and enjoys looking after other children. Because of what he went through, he is very conscious of other children who may be a little bit different or who may need a bit of extra time spent with them.
He is a cheeky, funny little boy with a great sense of humour and he doesn't stop talking. Louis likes nothing better than to re-count something that happened or tell a story in graphic detail. He does talk about when he had leukaemia and does remember parts of the treatment. We talk about it freely and assure him that he's all better now.
We have adjusted well to post-treatment life. Grace is also seven and a half years old and still mothers Louis. Our youngest daughter is now two years old. She arrived at such a lovely time for us. We enjoy every minute of our time with her, but she does remind us of what we missed out on with the twins as Louis was so young when he was diagnosed. Having said that, I am grateful every day that Rosie came along and that we can enjoy the things we missed - it's like a second chance.
He doesn't have another check-up for six months now and the only follow-up we need is in relation to his teeth. Two baby teeth fell out whilst on treatment and the new teeth are discoloured. This is nothing compared to some side effects and he has them polished up every few months. When he is older he can consider cosmetic options if he wants to.
We are now looking forward to the summer and our first proper family holiday. We are off to Singapore and Hong Kong, a well-deserved trip for us all!"
How you can help
You can help save children like Louis now by giving to Louis’ Appeal.
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Read more: Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia | Commonly used terms in treatment | side effects of treatment
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