At 11-months-old, our son Fletcher is a medical mystery. Fletcher has cancer, but no one knows what type – even the leading specialist in the field.
All we can do is take things on a day by day basis, chemo session by chemo session. Fletcher is just about to finish his third session and next week will be having his fourth and until that is finished, we don’t know what the next step will be.
We didn’t actually know Fletcher was ill until he was nine months old. Up until this point he’d been perfectly fine and healthy, but in January we noticed that his nappy was filled with chalk-like faeces. We knew this wasn’t normal so we took him for a check-up at our doctors but it wasn’t until two weeks and four doctor’s appointments later that things got worse…In addition to his white faeces, we noticed signs of jaundice in his skin colour. We ran him to the emergency doctors at our local hospital and it was there that doctors found a mass in his abdomen, believed to be on his liver.
There are only three specialist liver units in the UK – and our closest one was Leeds General Infirmary (LGI), two and a half hours away from home in Cumbria. When we arrived Fletcher had tests and biopsies carried out – but they came back negative or inconclusive, and it was at this point we knew it was only the beginning.
This is when cancer reared its ugly head.
Soon after, we were told Fletcher would need to be treated and admitted onto the oncology ward for an indefinite amount of time. Everyone was looking at Fletcher’s case, but there was no news – no clarity on his condition. We were told it was 100% cancer, and it was definitely a malignant tumour, but no-one knew what sort. Our son baffled everyone. All we knew was that the mass was very big for his tiny body – and was blocking Fletcher’s bioducts and arteries to his liver which was causing his problems.
For five weeks, Fletcher was kept on the ward and we were able to be there for him as we were supported at Eckersley House. The ‘Home from Home’ was great as it meant I could get away from the ward, freshen up and grab some sleep when I needed to and most importantly, Fletcher could have both of his parents with him as Eckersley could accommodate for us both.
The ‘Home from Home’ became very significant when Fletcher began to get stronger and was allowed away from the ward for the weekend. We could bring him over to Eckersley and be a family unit again - we could spend proper family time together, eat a family meal and go into the playroom – it was great. And the House Manager Jane and with the rest of the team were also brilliant; it’s like a little family at Eckersley House, we really appreciate how comfortable and relaxed they made us feel – which was so important.
We still have no idea what cancer Fletcher has, but what we do know is the chemotherapy is doing its job. After two courses, the size of his tumour has already been reduced by half! And as for his jaundice, he’s no longer yellow! But it’s still early days – we don’t know what the future will bring, but we’ve certainly got a long road ahead.
Despite all he faces, my son simply amazes me. He is absolutely wonderful and you would not think for one moment he is a sick child. He’s a clever boy, who’s always getting into mischief. He’s a charmer, woo-ing all the doctors and nurses. He has a way about him, you’ll just fall in love with him – when he grows up he’ll be a heart breaker for sure. He is a medical mystery, but he’s our little medical mystery.
*Leanne and Lee are joining The Sick Children’s Trust’s Big Chocolate Tea fundraising event from 22 April – 2 May and are calling for others to get involved too. For more information on Big Chocolate Tea visit http://www.sickchildrenstrust.org/bigchoctea