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Parents launch £500,000 appeal to fund lifesaving treatment for five-year-old

Oscar Saxelby-Lee was briefly cancer-free after stem cell treatment but the disease has now returned.

Oscar Saxelby-Lee with his mother, Olivia Saxelby, and father, Jamie Lee (Family handout/PA)
Oscar Saxelby-Lee with his mother, Olivia Saxelby, and father, Jamie Lee (Family handout/PA)

By Richard Vernalls, PA

The parents of a brave five-year-old boy whose leukaemia has returned despite a stem cell transplant are pleading for help to raise £500,0000 for lifesaving treatment.

Oscar Saxelby-Lee underwent a transplant in May after a search for a donor saw thousands across the UK – including strangers – sign-up to a register in a bid to help.

Following the procedure, Oscar was briefly cancer-free, but now the leukaemia has returned sparking an emotional appeal from his parents to save their boy’s life.

The youngster has T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which is difficult to treat and means he has been in and out of hospital constantly for the past nine months.

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Oscar Saxelby-Lee, who is back in hospital. (Family handout/PA)

The only real option left for the family, who are facing a race against time, is in an overseas trial called CAR-T, which would mean travelling to Singapore.

With the cost of treatment, travel and insurance to cover, his parents Olivia Saxelby and Jamie Lee, from Worcester, must now raise the huge sum in order to give their son a chance.

Despite his ordeal, Oscar, who is a big fan of David Walliams’ books and Marvel superheroes Ironman and Spider-Man, is “still a proper little boy” his mother said.

Ms Saxelby told the PA news agency the highs and lows of 2019 had been difficult to take, but they still had hope.

“Every time we’ve had good news, it’s been shocking, horrific news to follow,” she said.

“But that’s the nature of this disease – it’s not just us (going through it).

“We have to accept this is Oscar’s journey but all we can do is try and make it better by curing him and getting him home where he belongs.

“I find it really hard myself sometimes because everybody’s life’s on hold.

“You’re not in control of your life anymore, or your children’s lives.”

We need to find a lot of money to try and get him some treatment outside the NHS, because they won't offer him (anything) unless he reaches post-12 months after a stem cell transplant Olivia Saxelby

Following his relapse, Oscar is back on a ward specially for stem cell patients at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where he is undergoing treatment to try and keep the cancer at bay.

Ms Saxelby said: “Unfortunately we’re now in a position where they can’t do much for him, and it’s really sad because they feel helpless themselves.”

She added that Oscar’s diagnosis in December 2018 was a “massive blow”.

“Then we found out he needed a stem cell transplant,” she said.

“So back in March we had a massive plea for everybody to sign up to become a donor and eventually we found one, which was incredible.

“That was meant to be Oscar’s cure.

“In May he underwent a stem cell transplant and unfortunately… suddenly he’s relapsed, three months on.

“We need to find a lot of money to try and get him some treatment outside the NHS, because they won’t offer him (anything) unless he reaches post-12 months after a stem cell transplant.”

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Oscar with his parents, before he was diagnosed in December 2018. (Family handout/PA)

She added: “We need to raised £500,000 which is not only for treatment but supportive care, the travel and insurances on top, included.”

Breaking down in tears, the 24-year-old said: “It’s a lot of money.

“We are pleading for everybody to try their hardest to chip in, even if it’s a tiny bit.”

She added: “We’ve got two options; one is CAR-T, a trial in Singapore.

“Unfortunately, there aren’t any CAR-T trials in the UK or anywhere else but Singapore that are open at the moment for children with T-cell leukaemia.

“There are for B-cell, but not T-cell, so it is the only one that would potentially take him on.

“That is where they extract the cells, kind of zap them and then re-insert them over a period of time.

“Or we can try and put him in for a second stem cell transplant, which again unfortunately they won’t do unless he hits the 12-month mark post his first one (transplant) on the NHS.”

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Oscar in intensive care, after his stem-cell transplant in May. (Family handout/PA)

She said CAR-T treatment was the better option “for him to be cured”.

Ms Saxelby added Oscar sometimes “gets really upset with life” and it was heart-breaking for him not to be able to do what other little boys his age take for granted.

Ms Saxelby said: “We have now been put in a predicament where we have a price to pay for our child’s life.”

However, she said her dinosaur-mad son was also “incredible” and a fighter.

“His little dimples keep us going and he’s a cheeky chappy, always has been, always will be,” she said.

“As much as he is kind of isolated from life and normality, he’s still a little boy, he’s still great fun and still loves to have fun and enjoy everything around him.”

She praised Oscar’s school Pitmaston Primary, in Worcester, and others for being hugely supportive.

“If it wasn’t for those teachers, parents, staff, the whole community of Worcester and Oscar’s supporters online, on his Facebook…” she said.

“If we hadn’t have had any of those people we wouldn’t have got this far anyway.”

People who want to donate to the appeal, which has already raised more than £50,000, should visit virginmoneygiving.com and search for the Hand In Hand For Oscar page.

Alternatively, people can donate via mobile phone.

Text 5OSCAR 5 to 70085 to donate £5, 5OSCAR 10 to 70085 to donate £10, or text 5OSCAR 20 to 70085 to donate £20.

All texts costs the donation amount plus a standard rate message charge.

PA

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