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Parents appeal for help as Northern Ireland tot with eye cancer forced to go to Switzerland for vital treatment

By Leona O'Neill

An appeal has been launched to help the family of a 17-month old Londonderry toddler fighting cancer of the eyes.

Little Caleb Williamson was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma when he was just nine weeks old and started chemotherapy a week later.

His mum Jacqueline and dad Darran, who have five other children between them, have been by the little fighter's side as he travelled to Belfast and then Dublin for treatment.

Now, with Caleb's illness taking a dramatic turn, they have to travel to Switzerland for specialist treatment every fortnight with the tot.

Although the medical treatment is funded by the NHS, the costs of flights, accommodation and paying household bills back home is mounting.

But friends have stepped in to try and raise money through JustGiving to help ease their financial burden and allow them to be by their child's side for the fight of his life.

"They found a shadow behind Caleb's eye when he was just two days old," his mum Jacqueline explained.

"He was tested for Retinoblastoma - cancer that develops from the immature cells of a retina - because it is hereditary, I had it and so did my dad.

"A few weeks later they confirmed it was cancer. It was the most awful time in our lives. He was just nine weeks old, it was heartbreaking.

"We were brought to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where he started chemo.

"He developed sepsis and almost died.

"Thank God he recovered from that. He is a fighter, my boy."

Since then Caleb and his parents have been going between Belfast and Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin for cryotherapy.

So far he has had 20 aggressive tumours and his little body has endured six rounds of chemotherapy, countless surgeries, general anaesthetics, MRIs and laser treatments.

His doctors in Dublin have now referred Caleb to a specialised treatment centre in Switzerland to stop the tumours, which are on his optic nerve, spreading to his brain.

"Caleb now has to get a different kind of chemo to stop the cancer spreading to his brain," Jacqueline added.

"We will have to travel over to Switzerland every fortnight.

"We are very lucky that the treatment is funded by the NHS and the Gavin Glynn Foundation have been amazing at helping us meet flight and accommodation costs, but we are really struggling with every day costs, paying rent and keeping our home going while we are concentrating on getting him better.

"Caleb's daddy and me are by his side through his fight and we won't leave him.

"Our life is on hold, we aren't able to work. It's been a really heavy financial burden on us. It's another thing to worry about when our wee man is fighting for his life."

Retinoblastoma can affect one or both eyes.

The treatment has impacted on Caleb's sight, rendering him partially-sighted, but his mum says treatment is crucial to stop the cancer from spreading to his brain.

"What we need to do now is work to keep this cancer from spreading," added Jacqueline.

"I couldn't even bear to think about that happening, but that is a possibility. Once it's in the nervous system it can go anywhere.

"That is why it is crucial we go to Switzerland, to give him a fighting chance.

"Caleb is just a normal, crazy, happy, lively wee boy.

"Coming into my house you would never know what he has been through.

"He just bounces about and does everyday things. We are drained and exhausted but we are struggling on, fighting on for him."

The family have launched a JustGiving page as part of a crowdfunding drive where people can donate to help meet their costs.

To donate or for more information visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sarah-breslin

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