Thomas' story

Thomas was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2019 when he was five years old. His mum Gemma tells their story so far:

boy in white and blue adidas top

Months of worrying symptoms

I had been taking Thomas to the GP for months prior to his diagnosis as he had been struggling to breathe, particularly at night, and was complaining of pain in his knees and other joints. He was also tired all the time, barely eating, saying he felt sick constantly and he was always covered in bruises.

I kept taking him to the GP, but they put his symptoms down to other causes such as asthma, or they accused me of making up his issues and even causing the bruises myself. This was incredibly upsetting to deal with.

Thomas had been off school for a week in February 2019 as he had sickness and diarrhoea. One night I found that his body was covered in a rash that appeared from nowhere. I went to grab a glass and put it over the rash. It didn’t disappear. I instantly thought it was meningitis, panicked, called 111 and rushed to A&E.

Thomas with bunny

I told the doctor he was wrong. My child didn’t have cancer.

The hospital ran tests and we were moved on to the CAT unit overnight to wait for the results. The blood tests came back with an extremely high white blood count and very low platelets. They did an X-ray and he had a huge mass in his chest cavity that filled over 85% of it. This is why he couldn’t breathe at night.

Finally I had some answers. Certainly not the ones I expected or wanted to hear though. I broke down when the doctor came to tell me. I told him he was wrong. My child didn’t have cancer. He didn’t know what he was doing. I still feel guilty about that now, but I know he understood.

The treatment began immediately with more scans and high dose steroids. They couldn’t put his central line in under anaesthetic because of the mass, so they had to treat the mass first with extremely high dose steroids to clear it. Then the chemotherapy started. It made him feel very unwell very fast. He was isolated and in hospital for nearly two months.

boy asleep in hospital bed

Thomas’ reaction to treatment

We have had a lot of ups and downs during treatment. The chemotherapy has destroyed Thomas’ fine motor skills and he’s in a wheelchair sometimes. He can’t write properly anymore or use a normal knife and fork. The chemo has also caused some disfiguration of his toes and he has extremely tight leg muscles which makes him walk on his toes.

He’s ended up in hospital with pneumonia and a few other times with other illnesses or complications. He’s found it very difficult, particularly having his port accessed, but he’s a little fighter. He’s currently got over 14 meters of beads from the Beads of Courage programme. He’s had countless blood and platelet transfusions and loads of tests and treatments.

Thomas has just over two years of treatment left to go.

September 2020

 

Boy with panda and beads

How you can help

If you’ve been touched by Thomas’ 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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