THE parents of a toddler diagnosed with a rare cancer have opened up about his devastating diagnosis.
Bradley Lowery, who was two on Saturday, is one of 100 children who will be diagnosed with the aggressive childhood cancer neuroblastoma this year.
Tests showed it started in his adrenal glands, with tumours developing in his chest, lymph nodes, bones and bone marrow.
Doctors give those with the illness a 50/50 chance of survival, with 80 per cent of those who are declared clear expected to suffer a relapse.
Bradley’s parents, Gemma and Carl, both 30, were floored by the news of the reason he had been unwell, with a hernia and twisted stomach and bowel suspected before the cause was confirmed.
They had made repeated visits to the doctors for the symptoms of typical infant illnesses, with Bradley rushed to A&E as his health deteriorated.
Now, as he sets out on a programme of treatment at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, his family are campaigning to raise £500,000 for treatment in the US to fight any relapse he may suffer.
Gemma, a NHS health trainer at Healthworks in Easington Colliery, described the couple’s “mega shock” at Bradley’s diagnosis.
She added: “We just take every day as it comes – that’s the only thing we can do.”
Carl, a self-employed builder who runs Ridgepoint North East, said: “It affects your whole life. But everything he’s gone through, he’s taken and come back from. He’s amazing. At hospital he’s coped so well.”
So far, £15,000 has been raised, thanks to events held across Wearside, East Durham and beyond, including ones by Hetton Juniors, SAFC Foundation Whites and East Coast FC, the teams Bradley’s brother Kieran, 11, has played for.
Bradley’s nursery, Giant Steps, at the Sure Start centre near the family’s Blackhall home, and Healthworks are also supporters.
Others have donated cash to allow the couple to take time off work to spend with the youngster.
Gemma added: “When we get to the stage of relapse treatment, we don’t want to start fund-raising then and have to get £500,000 – it needs to be there.
“If he doesn’t need the treatment for whatever reason, then it will be used for someone else who does, because there will be other children who benefit.
“I don’t how to put into words how nice everybody has been.We’ve got a lot of friends and family, but our community, I just want to say how proud we are of them and what they have done for Bradley.
“Total strangers ask if he’s okay. We get messages asking if they can raise money, and I can’t get across how grateful we are.
“If there’s one thing to have come out of this, it’s been finding out how good people are.”
Bradley’s treatment so far has included chemotherapy, which has killed off the cancer’s cells in his bone marrow and shrunk the main tumour on his adrenal glands.
At one stage of his early treatment, medics had a crash trolley outside his room because they feared he would need to be revived.
He will undergo further chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, and be given immunotherapy to try and prevent a relapse.
His stem cells have been harvested, which involves freezing part of his blood, and will be given back to him to aid his recovery during the high doses of chemotherapy.
The programme is expected to take up to 18 months before the treatment to fight a relapse is needed.
The family is updating supporters about their campaign and Bradley’s progress via the Facebook page, Bradley Lowery’s Fight Against Neroblastoma, and on Twitter via @Bradleysfight.
Anyone who would like to help, can contact them through Facebook or Twitter.