The parents of a three-year-old boy have told of the devastating moment doctors told them a suspected ear infection was actually a life-threatening brain tumour.
Mitchell Brown was a healthy, active young boy until his parents noticed he had become unwell over Christmas and New Year.
But on January 3 his parents, Tony and Tara, took him for a visit to the GP that would turn their lives upside down.
Just 36 hours after leaving his Longridge home, Mitchell had been for scans at Royal Preston Hospital and was going into theatre for an 11-hour operation to remove the tumour on the base of his brain.
“When they draw the curtains around you at the hospital and say, ‘I’m really sorry, it’s not an ear infection. Your son has a brain tumour’ in the blink of an eye, your whole life changes,” Tony said.
“You see it on television and in the news but you never think it will happen to someone you know - never mind our three-year-old boy.”
Now, brave Mitchie, as he is affectionately known, has just finished six weeks of radiotherapy and will begin four months of chemotherapy.
And despite going through a family’s worst nightmare Tony and Tara, who also have a four-year-old daughter, Zoe have already began to think of others in their position.
Dozens of fundraising activities have been organised with the help of friends - raising thousands for Cancer Research UK.
Insurance broker Tony said: “Mitchie’s chances aren’t looking good but he’s done well so far and we know he’ll keep fighting.
“We’re lucky in that we don’t have any money problems and have lots of family and friends to help support Mitchell through this.
“But the NHS and its doctors and nurses have been brilliant through all of this so we wanted to do something to help find a cure because we don’t want this to happen to other children.”
From charity football matches and gigantic swims to coast to coast bike rides and Tough Mudders, hundreds of friends and family, as well as Mitchie’s Longridge nursery Little People of the Limes, have got on board with the fundraising push.
Tony said: “It’s humbling to see so many people getting involved and sending such touching messages of support.
“At first we only wanted to raise a few hundred pounds but it’s gone much further than that and we’re so grateful for everything everyone has done.”
To get involved with the Brown family’s appeal search ‘Miles for Mitchie’ on the Cancer Research website, www.cancerresearchuk.org
What research are CRUK funding into brain tumours?
Despite significant progress in research, brain tumours remain challenging to treat and there has been little improvement in survival over the last 40 years.
A CRUK spokesamn said: “Tackling brain tumours is one of Cancer Research UK’s top priorities and is boosting investment into this area.
“To achieve our goal of improving the outlook for patients with brain tumours – both children and adults – we’re funding research across the board, from lab research to understand more about brain tumours, all the way through to clinical trials to test new treatments in people.
“To help improve the outlook for children with brain tumours, Cancer Research UK is supporting researchers like Professor Steven Clifford, who is developing tests to help make sure that children with the most common type of childhood brain tumour, medulloblastoma, get the best treatment that is right for them.
“Professor Richard Gilbertson is also working on medulloblastoma and another common brain tumour called ependymoma. He’s dedicated to understanding more about the underlying biology of these tumours and identifying different types of the diseases, which could help make treatments more effective and kinder.
“And in Nottingham, Professor Richard Grundy is setting up an important clinical trial to find the best way of treating children with epepdymoma, to improve the chances of surviving for these children.”
Sadly, this isn’t the first time in the last five years the Lancashire Post a young child’s brave fight against brain cancer.
Readers have closely followed the journeys of Melanie Grant, 12, five-year-old Pippa Cole and Katy Holmes, 10, after being diagnosed with brain tumours.
Their families have campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness and money in aid of various charities to help others in the same permission.
Here, the Brown family’s chosen charity Cancer Research UK discusses facts around brain cancer in young people as well as the work it is doing to eradicate the disease.
How rare is a brain tumour in the under-fives?
Around 180 children under the age of five are diagnosed with brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours every year in the UK.
What are the symptoms?
There are many different types of children’s brain tumours, including medulloblastoma, ependymoma and gliomas. Symptoms vary depending on the type, size and position of the tumour.
But symptoms can include headaches, vomiting, seizures, changes in behaviour and eye problems including blood vision. If your child has these symptoms it’s unlikely to be cancer but it’s important to visit a GP if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
How is it treated?
There are different types of children’s brain tumours and treatment won’t be the same for everyone. The doctor will consider the age of the patient, the type of brain tumour, its size and position before choosing what will be most effective.
The main treatments for children’s brain tumours include surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, radiotherapy to destroy cancer cells and chemotherapy drugs. A child may receive one treatment or a combination of treatments.