Five-year-old Bradley Lowery became an internet sensation thanks to his beaming smile and the kindness of fundraisers and football clubs who wanted to help after hearing about his battle with Neuroblastoma – a form of cancer.
His mum Gemma is now at his hospital bedside as he undergoes the treatment that those newfound supporters and her tireless fundraising campaign helped to pay for. It’s a combination of drugs that is currently unavailable in the UK but which the hospital has agreed to administer.
The side-effects of this treatment are extremely unpleasant but Gemma told us it’s their last hope. And she does have hope - despite being told three times by doctors that there was nothing more they could do for him - because this potentially life-changing treatment has a high success rate in the US and because brave Bradley has beaten the disease once before.
Sunderland fan Bradley was diagnosed when he was 19 months old after being a sickly baby who seemed to catch every bug going. When his belly became distended and he clearly had a sore tummy, staff at Sunderland A&E did blood tests and he was blue-lighted to the Royal Victoria Infirmary. There, an ultrasound scan confirmed the awful truth that a lump in his tummy was not a suspected hernia but stage 4 Neuroblastoma.
Gemma’s husband Carl and their older son were at a football match for a birthday treat that day so she coped with the diagnosis alone until they arrived at the hospital eight hours later. Then she knew she’d have to break the news because Bradley had been transferred to an oncology ward so it would be obvious.
Treatment began and things were touch and go but on 15th December 2014 he was given the all-clear. He finally had 18 months off treatment. Tragically, that respite did not last and Bradley relapsed in June 2016.
Gemma told us: “There’s nothing you can think about apart from losing one of the most important things in your life but Brad’s fought so hard and although there are moments of hopelessness, with me the heartache turns into fight. It rips your heart apart to be told more than once that there’s no further treatment. But we need to give him a fighting chance.”
One small thing that has helped Bradley and his family was when he had his wish to go to Disneyland Paris because he wanted to meet the cartoon characters he loves.
Gemma had already heard about Make-A-Wish® UK through friends who had had a wish but she parked the idea until Bradley was old enough and well enough to enjoy a special experience. She was in the process of applying for a wish when he relapsed so it took on a new urgency.
Gemma said: “It wasn’t easy for him to choose a wish because like a lot of boys his age, he likes lots of different things. I encouraged him to wish for something that would give him and us and his brother really positive memories too. It’s the whole family that go through it when a child is diagnosed with a serious illness and his older brother has had to go through so much heartache so it’s fantastic that with Make-A-Wish wishes include siblings.”
Bradley chose to go to Disneyland Paris and he absolutely loved it. Just before the family travelled, he slept for 32 hours solid which stood him in good stead because when he was there he was hyper – going on as many rides as he could and running up to hug the Disney characters that passed by! He met Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto and Tigger, to name but a few.
Gemma said: “He loved the characters and the rides and stopping in the hotel. We took lots of photos and videos and we want to say a massive thank you to Make-A-Wish for helping us make memories that we’ll treasure forever. We shared those pictures online and we can’t get over how everyone has taken to our little boy all over the world. It’s really comforting for us and helps us deal with our situation as well.”
More children than ever are turning to Make-A-Wish so every donation really makes a difference. To make a donation or find out more about our work, please visit our website here: www.make-a-wish.org.uk or telephone 01276 40 50 70.
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