A BRAVE youngster in the midst of three years of cancer treatment has inspired his mum to lead a national campaign to raise awareness of the disease he is fighting.
Nathan Shorey has been given a Little Star Award by Cancer Research UK for his courage in coping with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).
As the three-year-old reaches the mid-point of his programme of treatment, his mum Melanie is spearheads a campaign calling for more funding to raise awareness of childhood cancers, support families affected and pay for research into treatments.
The campaign started after Melanie set up an oncology mums group on Facebook for parents to share information and support each other, and one of the members suggested sending a petition to Downing Street.
The online petition attracted more than 5,000 signatures within ten days of being launched, but the group hopes to secure 100,000 names before handing it over.
Melanie, of Ellington, said: “I didn’t know anything about childhood cancer when Nathan was diagnosed, and most parents are the same, which is why my friend has set up this petition.
“There are too many children who have a late diagnosis because nobody knows what to look for.
“We were lucky because Nathan had a rash, but some children have joint pains which are dismissed as junior arthritis.
“Looking back, Nathan did have some symptoms, such as aches at night and he would get bruises, but we thought it was just through playing with his brother.
“Every week, there seems to be new children coming into the children’s cancer ward at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI), so it’s not as uncommon as people think.
“We need to get more awareness about childhood cancer, so that we can get more funding and research.”
The family’s ordeal began in May 2010 after Melanie noticed a rash on Nathan’s thighs and arms and took him to Ashington’s Wansbeck General Hospital, fearing that he had meningitis.
The youngster was kept in overnight then transferred to North Tyneside General Hospital in North Shields, where he was diagnosed with ALL, the most common type of leukaemia in children.
“When I did the glass test on Nathan, the rash didn’t go, so I thought it was meningitis, but then I thought it might have just been a viral infection because the ambulance driver showed me a picture of someone with meningitis and it didn’t look like that,” said Melanie. “It was at the hospital that I was told it was leukaemia.
“I went from being very worried to not being worried to being worried sick.”
The family then learned that Nathan would have to face three years and ten weeks of treatment, mostly at the RVI.
He has to take chemotherapy tablets daily at home and go to hospital every fortnight for blood tests.
Nathan has chemotherapy injections in his chest every month and undergoes more intensive treatment every 12 weeks.
He also takes steroids once a month and must have his temperature taken twice a day.
Melanie said: “When he has to go to hospital, he doesn’t complain, but he doesn’t like the chemo. He used to hate getting his finger pricked, but he takes it in his stride now and just screws up his face.
“It’s awful, but the first six months are so intense that it gets easier. It is so much better now than it was at the beginning. This is normality for us now.”
Melanie and dad Michael nominated Nathan for a Little Star Award to acknowledge his courage and offer him encouragement.
“Nathan has been so brave. He just gets on with it,” she said.
“Despite the amount of times he is in hospital, he never questions anything. He doesn’t know that he has got leukaemia, and he doesn’t know there is anything wrong with him. He probably thinks that every other child goes to hospital and gets chemo.
“He definitely deserves the award for what he has been through.”
The family are counting down the days to the completion of Nathan’s treatment on July 29, 2013, and hope to throw a party at Morpeth Rugby Club when that day arrives.
Little Star Awards are given out by Cancer Research UK to every child nominated to highlight the courage of all children facing cancer.
Nathan’s sister Paige, 16, and brothers Luke, six, and 17-month-old Samuel also received certificates to recognise their support.
To sign Melanie’s petition, visit www.childhood-cancer-awareness.org