Brave Reece Holt has defied the odds by turning up to his first day of grammar school just days after undergoing brain surgery for the third time.
Smiling proudly in his new uniform the 11-year-old was determined not to let brain cancer get the better of him as he started his first year at Lancaster Royal Grammar School.
However a few days earlier Reece was rushed to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool for an emergency brain operation after being told his cancer had returned.
Mum Rachel O’Neil has praised her warrior son describing him as her ‘hero’ who just wants to help other children with cancer too.
“You could take the strongest, toughest man in the world right now and put him next to Reece and he would seem weak in comparison,” said mum, Rachel O’Neil. “There is no way cancer was stopping this boy walking into Lancaster Royal Grammar School for his first day. Believe me when I say I have yet to meet a child fighting cancer who doesn’t have this sheer strength and determination of a true warrior, my son is my hero.”
Reece was diagnosed in May last year after suddenly collapsing at home.
You could take the strongest, toughest man in the world right now and put him next to Reece and he would seem weak in comparison,
The Star Wars fan was told he had an Anaplastic Astrocytoma, an extremely rare malignant tumour that affects only about 10 children a year.
In a space of a few hours the Holt family watched their happy active boy go onto life support as he battled a bleed on the brain.
After going through radiotherapy and 12 chemotherapy cycles of chemotherapy Reece was on the mend, organising charity events and giving talks to organisations.
He spent the summer holidays playing with younger brother Callum and preparing for his big step towards high school.
But last week the family had to face heartbreak once again after a routine MRI brain scan last Tuesday showed devastating results.
“It was very upsetting and heartbreaking but when you have got a child you can’t show that, you can’t fall apart,” said Rachel. “We have to get on with it, both of my children need me.”
The scan showed big changes in Reece’s brain and a another tumour, smaller to the first one last year. Doctors have taken a biopsy of the tumour and are now looking to see whether Reece is suitable for clinical trials and other methods.
But Rachel says the future is uncertain as there is no funding for a second line of treatment.
She said: “As far as I am aware there is no government budget for paediatric cancer research. It is something that needs to change.”
Since his diagnosis, hero Reece has captured the hearts of the community and group has been set up in his honour to raise awareness of children’s cancer.
Team Reece, which was also set up to supply holidays for children fighting cancer, was created by Rachel after Reece’s diagnosis.
“Team Reece is working on raising awareness and we will continue working on that no matter what the outcome is,” said Rachel. “That’s why we are doing it so other kids don’t have to go through what we are going through.”
Team Reece need to hit their target of £18,000 to be able to buy a static caravan and site fees for families who have children with cancer so they can enjoy holidays away during difficult times. People who choose to enter the lottery for £1 a week via direct debit or cheque can win prizes and help towards fundraising at the same time. Apply via www.unitylottery.co.uk/charity/display/team-reece.
To keep up to date with Reece’s journey you can visit www.facebook.com/teamreeceholt.