Dean is a happy, active boy who adores Skylanders and gaming. To his proud parents, Jane and Tony, seeing him enjoying life is not without complications. When Dean was just 3 ½ years old, their lives were changed forever.
Dean’s mother Jane describes how she thought her son had a treatable childhood illness but which actually turned out to be a far more serious childhood disease.
“A lump became visible on the side of Dean’s neck. At the same time his stomach was slightly distended,” explains Jane.
With no other signs of being unwell, Jane’s concern was that her son had mumps. That very evening, she took Dean to the A and E department at their local hospital. Bloods were taken and Dean was admitted to the children’s ward late that night. An ultrasound and X-ray took place the following morning.
“Later that day, we were told that 2 masses had been detected and they were most likely to be cancerous,” says Jane.
Dean was transferred from his local hospital to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. Surgical procedures to insert a central line and a biopsy of the tumour in his neck were carried out.
Results of which revealed that Dean had stage 4 high risk neuroblastoma – an aggressive childhood cancer. With a tumour on the side of Dean’s neck, this meant that the cancer had spread to Dean’s lymphatic system. “We were numb and devastated. We could not believe or understand everything that was happening,” says Jane and Tony.
Sadly more difficult news followed. The type of neuroblastoma Dean had was one of the worst kinds and like more than half of children diagnosed with neuroblastoma, the cancer had spread to Dean’s bones. Neuroblastoma is the most common cancer outside the brain in children under 5 years old. In most cases it is only diagnosed when it has already spread and is then at a ‘high risk’ stage.
Jane and Tony gathered strength in those early days to help their son fight this terrible disease. Chemotherapy began within a week of diagnosis and the harsh treatment regime made Dean critically unwell. “We were told that Dean may not pull through and to prepare ourselves,” recall Jane and Tony.
Dean, now aged 8 has successfully completed treatment and shows no evidence of disease. Fluent in Welsh, Dean attends a Welsh Medium school and his parents describe him as being a “bright boy who loves learning.” “Dean enjoys life the best he can,” says Jane “…yet life is far from easy and is complex but somehow we manage.”
Long term side effects from Dean’s intensive treatment means that he wears bilateral hearing aids, glasses and orthesis, none of which stand in the way of him living life to the full. Rugby, judo, swimming, gymnastics and football are just some of the activities Dean enjoys which are also supporting his physiotherapy needs. He is also under the care of 8 different therapy services throughout the year so family life is busy with on-going appointments.
Every appointment and every scan is helping to improve Dean’s quality of life but for his mother Jane, these along with fundraising are “torturous.” Jane goes on to say, “It’s just like revisiting that day of the cancer diagnosis.”
His family are fundraising for NCCA UK to help Dean and other children like him if additional treatment is needed or if the cancer were to return. The risk of relapse with high risk neuroblastoma is higher than with many other childhood cancers but through Dean’s Journey the NCCA UK can ensure that every possible avenue for treatment is open to him should he need it.
Tony and Jane say “It doesn’t get any easier to cope with, you just get better at hiding it. We keep on going because that’s what we need to do for Dean.”
Please make a donation to the NCCA UK to help Dean, and children like him. Every donation made for the NCCA UK, no matter how small, will make a difference.
If you can help by holding or organising a fundraising event please contact the fundraising team at the NCCA UK on 020 7284 0800.
To donate via your mobile phone text DEAN93 and your amount (£1-10) to 70070.
Jane and Tony thank everyone who has supported them so far and say “All Dean wants is the chance to grow up like everyone else. With your help this dream could be a possibility.”