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Finley's leukaemia story

How it all started

Finley, aged four was energetic, boisterous and everything a typical four year old should be. Never complaining of anything, it struck us as peculiar when one day he began complaining of his legs hurting and not wanting to walk let alone run anywhere. After a period of believing this was likely to be growing pains we took him to the local doctors for advice.

The doctors stated that he should have a blood test at the local hospital after the weekend however my wife took him the same day for one to be done. Once the bloods had been taken he was admitted to hospital with no explanation as to what was happening for a week before the decision was made to send him to hospital in Sutton for a sample of bone marrow to be taken on 2 September 2020. Sending him down to the operating theatre for him to be given anaesthetic was heart-breaking and it was at this point it hit me how serious this all was. Later driving home the news every parent ever fears was delivered via a telephone call which changed our lives forever. Finely was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. To this day my wife and I can both recall the feeling of helplessness, fear, anger, and the determination to beat it in one hit. Hearing our parents, family and friends all in tears at the news as well as trying to comfort each other was difficult to manage all whilst trying to be positive for Finley.

Martin with son Finley laying in hospital bed

I remember feeling why him?

Finley started treatment the following day with a smile on his face and whilst he was again in the theatre having a port fitted inside his tiny body and chemotherapy injected into his spinal fluid we were taken by the consultant and given all the details of the immediate treatment and what his journey could look like. Both still very emotional and confused, it all was a blur and I remember a feeling of why him? What had we missed? What caused it? The support we received from the nurses and staff was second to none and the understanding of how we felt was handled perfectly.

Finley remained in hospital for another week so that he could be monitored for any change due to the medication and to ensure he was taking to treatment well. He was given a tube through his nose so that he could take the medication required as he struggled to deal with the number of tablets he needed. In his typical fashion he adapted quickly and took it in his stride. Our strength to deal with it came from his smile and determination despite not knowing what was going on.

Finley in hospital bed readin wheres wally

He took everything in his stride

Once the week was over we left the hospital with bags of medicines, test strips for his tube and more leaflets than I have ever seen feeling completely overwhelmed. Again the support we had for both us and Finley was incredible. Finley continued to deal with his new ‘normal’ well and responded well to initial treatment although the mixture of chemotherapy and steroids hit him hard. After a few months he had further tests on his leukaemia cells as well as his blood to determine how he was doing and we had the positive news that his leukaemia was responding well to treatment and he would remain on the lowest regimen available to him. He continued to smile each and every day telling us he was smashing it and we couldn’t have been prouder when we were told that he had gone into remission. Now with no hair but a sense of pride he looked like his granddads, Finley continued to smile, and began to show signs of returning to his pre-diagnosis self.

Finley smiling at camera

Finley has started to attend school

As we hit the New Year we entered the beginning of the maintenance phase and the daunting prospect of less intense treatment and more focus on recovery and maintaining the remission he had obtained. Finley, having been given a ton of support from everyone, managed to begin to take tablets and as a result and with a little assistance from his younger sister Millie, his nose tube was removed. We were beginning to feel the worst was past us when Finley suddenly had a series of spiked temperatures and admission into his local care hospital. He remained for a period of days and on one occasion being over a week with little explanation of what had caused them other than being told this is typical of child cancer patients. Despite this Finley remained upbeat and started to attend school a few days a week and going out as normal on days out with us as a family.

Finley standing by the door wearing school uniform with no hair

We are so proud of him

Over the summer Finley has gone from strength to strength and is now better than when he was initially diagnosed. He continues to smile every day and deals with everything in his path. As we have now just past a year of his diagnosis, Finley has returned to school full time, continues to play as normal in the park and enjoy the company of his younger sister more than ever. He has his off days especially after stronger doses of chemotherapy but these are becoming less the longer treatment goes on. He continues to ‘smash it’ each and every day and does us proud with how he has handled all his body has had to endure.

I want to share this story to raise awareness that the signs and symptoms of this terrible disease are not always obvious and any concerns need to be addressed as soon as they arise. I also want to assure those whose children have been diagnosed or are at the start of their journey that things do get better no matter how dark the tunnel may seem. Together with charities like Children with Cancer UK we will see the end of these journeys.
October 2021

Finely at the stadium wearing footbal shirt

How you can help

If you’ve been touched by Finley’s journey, help us invest in the high quality research that really matters which would otherwise go unfunded.

This helps to support children with cancer so they can be with their families for longer.

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Have you or a family member been affected by childhood cancer?

Many of our supporters have been affected by childhood cancer – either through family, friends or their own personal experience. These patient stories can help inspire others to get involved with us, or can support our media work.

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