Proud mum of little cancer survivor Nathanael Thompson urges support for charity that did so much
The mother of a Co Antrim baby boy who survived cancer has spoken of how the traumatic experience has inspired her to help others.
Nathanael Thompson from Randalstown was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer in December 2016 when he was just nine months old.
"Cancer doesn't discriminate against anyone - it didn't even care that he was only a baby," his mother Sarah Thompson said.
Family life, with dad Paul and older brother Alfie (3), became dominated by the cruel reality of the disease.
"When Nathanael was first diagnosed with kidney cancer it was a massive shock, we had no idea that something like this could come knocking on our door let alone be invading Nathanael's body," she said.
"We felt helpless and that there was nothing we could do to help him, cancer had taken control of our lives. We spent a lot of sleepless nights worrying and trying to come to terms with things."
While "blissfully unaware" of the year ahead of him, Nathanael's mother explained how draining the treatment became.
"Our baby changed drastically, even his complexion, he was pale and had started to lose a lot of his hair, gaining the 'chemotherapy' look," she explained. After a month of chemotherapy he then underwent a six-hour surgery to remove his tumour, left kidney and surrounding lymph nodes.
The tumour had leaked during the operation, requiring a course of 20 sessions of radiotherapy, which required anaesthetic each time.
"It was a horrible time for the whole family, Nathanael had to be fasted each morning. In the beginning he was angry with us and confused. Why were mummy and daddy suddenly not feeding him?" said Mrs Thompson.
The final high-risk phase of chemotherapy took an agonising 10 months to complete.
"We went from being a normal family enjoying our children and working hard, to a family who felt like we were fighting each day for survival," she said.
Nathanael's older brother Alfie also struggled to adjust.
This included copying his younger brother when he became sick at meal times, as well as withdrawing from the outside world as the family became more isolated.
At this point the family discovered help from the Cancer Fund for Children.
This included grants for heating and travel when Paul had to leave his job to care for Nathanael and arranging for family respite trips to escape the "jail" their home had become.
Last month the family were finally given the news they had been waiting for - Nathanael was cancer-free. "All his scans show no evidence of disease and it's the result we have been fighting for all year," Mrs Thompson said.
"We are beyond delighted and proud. He has been nothing short of amazing, since finishing treatment he has learnt to walk unaided, has started simple speech and, best of all, he has started to play. His new found energy has been contagious to us all, there is quite literally no stopping him now."
The family are encouraging others to support the charity ahead of World Cancer Day this Sunday. Fundraising events include eight Winter Woolly Walks taking place this month in Belfast, Cookstown, Antrim, Portstewart, Londonderry, Enniskillen, Newcastle and Limavady.
For more information visit www.cancerfundforchildren.com