Evan Wilson, seven, was chosen as VIP starter for Race for Life Pretty Muddy Glasgow, a 5K mud-splattered obstacle course for Cancer Research UK.
Now clear of cancer, Evan of Lennoxtown, East Dunbartonshire was supported by his mum Lorraine, 46, and dad Scott, 49, as well as his sister Jorja, 13. They know exactly how vital the power of research is to help give families more tomorrows with their loved ones.
Evan had his first chemotherapy session at just 12 days old after a sharp eyed midwife spotted a swelling in his stomach minutes after he was born. Doctors confirmed he was suffering from a rare form of liver cancer known as hepatoblastoma* two hours later. He endured two bouts of septicaemia before surgery and six months of treatment.
Evan’s mum Lorraine who is a psychiatric nurse recalls vividly her shock in the early days at Glasgow’s Yorkhill hospital when Evan was fighting for his life.
Lorraine said: “It was the worst feeling in the world when Evan had cancer.
“I should have been bringing my baby boy home from hospital for the first time but instead he was in a cancer ward. I was just absolutely shattered. I don’t know how we got through it. I don’t think I slept for about a year. I wasn’t eating. I struggled to watch Evan go through treatment. It felt like our lives had stopped. This wasn’t how things were meant to be but we got help from so many people to pull us through it.
“We’re so lucky to have Evan and proud of everything he has achieved. Evan is a brilliant and determined boy. But some families we got to know lost their beautiful children to this terrible disease. Now if we can help other families then we will.”
After treatment to shrink the size of the tumour, Evan and his family travelled to Birmingham’s Children’s hospital where on April 4 2012 he had surgery to remove his gall bladder and half his liver. The operation was estimated to last around eight hours so when medics called after just four hours, Evan’s parents feared the worst.
Evan’s dad, Scott, also a psychiatric nurse, said: “We raced back to the hospital ward like Olympic runners, terrified that something had gone wrong.
“When we reached the ward, the doctors explained we’d hung up the phone too quickly before they’d had time to tell us that everything had gone well. It was more straightforward then they’d thought so it had taken less time to complete the operation. That was such a relief. Evan had some medical care and we’re so fortunate to have the NHS in this country. We’ll be forever in the debt of Khalid Sharif, the surgeon who helped fix our boy. I remember him saying to us in the nicest possible way that he never wanted to see us again.”
After six sessions of chemotherapy, the family were told in June 2012 that Evan was in remission. Genetic tests later showed that Evan and his sister both have a faulty gene which leads to a lifelong condition known as familial polypodis, causing small growths in the large bowel but they are monitored closely. And Evan who has gone from strength to strength is thriving in primary four at St Machan’s Primary school in East Dunbartonshire.
Every day, 88 people are diagnosed with cancer in Scotland and the number of people being diagnosed with cancer has now reached around 32,000 people every year.
One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives but the good news is more people are surviving the disease now than ever before. Survival has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.
Last year, Cancer Research UK spent £42 million in Scotland on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research. Glasgow is home to a thriving community of world-class scientists and doctors who are working to reduce the impact of the disease around the world.
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring series of 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids events.
Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman in Scotland, said: “I want to say a huge thank you to Evan and to everyone who took part in Pretty Muddy Glasgow.
“Listening to Evan’s story brought home to everyone why raising money for cancer research is so important. The atmosphere on the obstacle course was full of fun and camaraderie with an extra helping of mud, sweat and cheers. It was also emotional with participants wearing signs on their backs declaring their reasons for taking part. Many will be remembering loved ones lost to cancer or celebrating the lives of people dear to them who have survived.”