A BRAVE little boy who is undergoing three years of cancer treatment has inspired his mum to lead a national awareness campaign.
Three-year-old Nathan Shorey has just received a Little Star Award from Cancer Research UK for his courage in fighting Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL).
As the toddler reaches the mid-point in his treatment, there could be more far-reaching rewards as his mum Melanie spearheads a petition seeking more funding to raise awareness of childhood cancers, support families and research treatments.
The campaign has come about after Mrs Shorey 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.
Just 10 days after it was launched, the online petition has attracted more than 5,000 signatures, but the group hopes to secure 100,000 names before handing it over.
Mrs Shorey 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.
“December was Childhood Cancer Month, but I only found that out last week, and there seems to be lots of pink ribbons around for breast cancer, but no gold ones for childhood cancer.
“Every week, there seems to be new children coming into the RVI children’s cancer ward so it doesn’t seem as uncommon as people think.
“We need to get more awareness about childhood cancer so that we can get more funding and research.”
The Ellington family’s own ordeal began in May 2010 when Mrs Shorey noticed a rash on Nathan’s thighs and arms and took him to Wansbeck General Hospital, fearing it was meningitis.
The youngster stayed in overnight before he was transferred to North Tyneside General, 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. Then at the hospital I was told it was leukaemia,” said Mrs Shorey.
“I went from being very worried to not being worried to being worried sick.”
The family then learned that Nathan had to face three years and 10 weeks of treatment, predominantly at Newcastle’s RVI.
In the first 100 days of his diagnosis, he spent 70 in hospital and, for the first month, did not get out into the fresh air.
He has to take chemotherapy tablets daily and, until recently, had to visit hospital every week for blood tests. Now it is every fortnight.
Every month he has chemotherapy injections in his chest and undergoes more intensive treatment every 12 weeks when he is given an anaesthetic.
Nathan also takes steroids once a month and must have his temperature taken twice a day. If it is too high he faces a three-day stay in hospital.
Mrs Shorey said: “The steroids make him grouchy and sad and he gets angry and eats loads, but he doesn’t understand why. It also affects his hands and legs. Some children need a wheelchair so he is quite lucky, but he gets tingly and last time he got a limp and couldn’t walk properly.
“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.”
Mrs Shorey nominated Nathan for a Little Star Award to recognise his bravery and give him encouragement.
“Nathan has been so brave, he just gets on with it. Despite the amount of times he is in hospital, he never questions anything,” she said.
“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 comes home and plays with his brother like any other child, and he loves going to nursery, but if there is anything going round like chickenpox, he has to stay at home.
“He definitely deserves the award for what he has been through.”
The family is counting down the days to the completion of Nathan’s treatment on July 29, 2013, and hope to have a party at Morpeth Rugby Club when it arrives.
Little Star Awards are given by Cancer Research UK to every child nominated to highlight the courage of all children facing cancer.
Nathan received a trophy, a TK Maxx gift card and a certificate signed by singers Leona Lewis and Tinie Tempah, sporting heroes Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis, and Harry Potter star Rupert Grint.
His 16-year-old sister Paige, six-year-old brother Luke and 17-month-old brother Samuel also received certificates to recognise their support.
Cancer Research UK is working to investigate the causes of children’s cancers, find new ways of diagnosing them and develop better and kinder treatments.
To sign Mrs Shorey’s childhood cancer awareness-raising petition, visit www.childhood-cancer-awareness.org
To nominate a Little Star or donate to Cancer Research UK, visit www.cancerresearchuk.org/littlestar