Life

By Hannah McFadyen


A mum is facing double heartbreak after both her children were diagnosed with cancer within the space of four months

Keri Redfearn, 32, thought she had experienced her worst nightmare when her 10-year-old son Leo was found to have rare neuroblastoma.

CATERS: Leo

But just four months later, she and dad Shaun suffered a further blow as Leo’s younger brother, Oliver, was also diagnosed with a completely different childhood cancer.

Young Oliver was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at just six-years-old and the brothers found themselves in hospital beds next to one another, battling cancer together.

The brave brothers are now rallying together and supporting each other through the biggest challenge of their young lives.

Their mum revealed at first the family all just hoped it was some kind of error.

Keri, from Wakefield, Yorkshire, said: “If you can imagine your worst nightmare and times that by 100 – that’s what it feels like.

CATERS: Oliver

“It’s like the whole world falls out from under you and I think we all just kept hoping it was a mistake.

“It started last February when Leo was suffering from pain in his ribs. At first we thought it was growing pains, but then the pains got so bad that the school were ringing me as they were so concerned.

“The doctors thought it was an inflammation of the chest muscles, and we kept going back but we were told it was all in his head and that he just didn’t want to go to school.

It was on a family holiday when Keri and her husband Shaun, 59, caught sight of Leo on the beach and Keri recalls how they could see all of his bones.

She added: “I marched into the doctors told them that there really was something wrong and finally, they did give him the tests.”

A mass was discovered and in early October Leo was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma and started treatment.

CATERS

The family found themselves thrust into a terrifying and strange new life of hospital bed and gowns, MRIs, blood tests and biopsies.

Keri said: “It was Christmas day when Oliver started having pains and we put it down to him suffering a bit because of the change and we thought it was probably a bit psychological.

“We got a play therapist involved, but he just wasn’t right. Oliver’s not a drama queen, but he seemed to lose the colour in his face and he didn’t want to eat, even in McDonald’s.

“This time the doctors did take us seriously and they said if he’s still unwell in two week – bring him back and we’ll take some tests.

Oliver was diagnosed with Lymphoma, a blood cancer, and the family’s lives were turned upside-down once again.

The brothers found themselves in beds next to one-another and Keri and Shaun spent three days in hospital and then traded to spend three days at home with their youngest, Isobel, 5.

Keri says that her sons have now keeping each other company and keeping their spirits up.

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She said: “They’re two completely different kids, but as close as brothers can be.

“They squabble but they love each other to bits – I think they’re just typical brothers

“Oliver love to chat and he encourages Leo to take his medicine, something Leo’s been struggling with since he’s been having treatment for four months and he’s in a really tough part of it right now.

The brothers both have been keeping track of their progress through their beads of courage – the boys add a bead onto their string for every procedure they have done.

Leo’s is over twenty feet long after four months of his treatment, while Oliver’s is just getting started.

Keri said: “The past two weeks have terrible – I think it must be every parent’s worst nightmare and then to have two children diagnosed is almost unheard of.

“Childhood cancer is so rare that there’s not the research there for it – there’s around 100 children a year diagnosed, there needs to be more research to help families like ours, and more awareness.

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“For mum’s I think if there’s a problem with the child – if they think there’s something going on, then they should push for a test.

“The boys’ younger sister, Isobel, really misses everybody and because she has autism change is something she struggles with.

“So she’s finding it hard because while it used to be the whole family there, now she’s only got one person left at home with her.

“There’s a charity called Candlelighters that have really helped us. They offer brilliant support for families, they hold your hand when you need them the most – they’re there if I need them or If I need to cry and if you want go out for a moment.

“The work that they do is just incredible, having someone there that you’ve never met before such a huge rock and it’s so fantastic.”