Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens have launched its annual Star Awards, backed by top names including Manchester United skipper Wayne Rooney.
In Scotland, the awards were launched by six-year-old Louis Thomson from Glasgow who has overcome leukaemia.
According to Cancer Research the rate of children dying from cancer has dropped by almost a quarter (24 per cent) in the UK in the last decade. Ten years ago around 330 children in the UK died from cancer each year but, thanks to better treatments, this has now declined to around 260 every year. Louis is now in remission and looking forward to the best Christmas ever after his 12-year-old brother Jack stepped in to save his life and donate bone marrow. The transplant proved a success and Louis has been recognised with a Kids & Teens star award for demonstrating remarkable courage during a tough fight back to health.
His mum, Caroline Thomson is hugely proud of both her sons.
Caroline, 41, said: “I call the boys my superheroes as they really are.
“When Louis got leukaemia I couldn’t eat or sleep at first.
“I’d do anything for my boys and if there had been a way to take the leukaemia away from Louis altogether and give it to me instead then I’d have agreed to that in a second.
“Louis was determined to sail through it all and Jack stepped up so willingly to help his wee brother.
“They were close before this happened but I think they’re even closer now. I’m so proud and lucky to have my boys.”
The family know only too well how crucial new developments and breakthroughs in treatments are in helping children and adults survive cancer.
Louis’ parents, Caroline and James, 41, recall vividly the moment their lives were turned upside down on July 24 last year after tests revealed Louis had acute myeloid leukaemia, a cancer of the white blood cells which helps the body to fight infection. He had gone to the doctor after complaining of a painful neck and foot as well as tiredness. Bruises on his body and red dots on his skin raised alarm bells and they sent Louis to Yorkhill Children’s hospital for more investigations.
Mum Caroline said: “Then they hit with me with the bombshell.
“A consultant took me in to a room to explain that the blood tests showed Louis had leukaemia. It all happened really quickly and I just couldn’t believe it.
“It felt like everything else in my life suddenly stopped and we didn’t get out of hospital after that first night so really we were there for nine months.”
Risk of infection meant Louis was confined to an isolation ward so cut off from friends and most family during his first round of chemotherapy. But it was a hammer blow after tests in August showed there were still 35 per cent of leukaemia cells in Louis’ body.
Caroline said: “They took us in to that dreaded room again to explain that the chemotherapy wasn’t working well enough.”
Doctors explained if no family member proved a bone marrow match for Louis then a search would be launched for a match on the bone marrow register world-wide. That’s why it was a huge relief when test results came back to show that Louis’ brother Jack was a perfect match.
Caroline said: “They told me that Jack’s match was 10 out of 10, the best that it could possibly be.
“I was crying with relief. Louis’ perfect match was right there, his big brother. I knew if Jack didn’t want to do it then we couldn’t force him but Jack said yes straight away.
I still don’t think Louis realises exactly what Jack has done for him. Louis just knows his brother helped him get better.”
Louis went through two more courses of chemotherapy then last November started conditioning treatment to kill off his own bone marrow which contained cancer cells in preparation for receiving his brother’s healthy bone marrow cells.
After months in an isolation room to cut the risk of infection, it was an emotional moment on Christmas day when Louis was allowed a special visitor for the first time- his brother Jack who had saved his life. The brothers who had not been allowed in the same room together for so long sat alongside each other on the same bed to open their Christmas presents.
Caroline said: “It was amazing. We finally had Louis back. Louis told us that being in the same room as his brother was the best present.”
By January this year tests revealed that all the bone marrow cells in Louis’ body were now clear of cancer and the treatment had worked.
Louis was finally well enough to get out of hospital in March ahead of his birthday and Louis is now thriving in primary one at school.