By Jess Grieveson-Smith
A doting relative has spent hours having his arm tattooed in honour of sick nephew Zac Oliver’s rare cancer battle.
Wayne Bowen, 40, from Broseley, Shrops, went under the needle to commemorate Zac, now four – who is thought to be the only child in Britain with his form of leukaemia.
After hitting the headlines earlier this year when he raised more than £500,000 for lifesaving treatment in America, Zac is now receiving the pioneering therapy he needs to save his life.
The family left for the states on November 12, after delaying their trip in order for Zac to be well enough to travel, and returned back to the UK on Tuesday [November 20].
Wayne, who works for a car manufacturer, said: “My tattoo artist said he wanted to do something for Zac, and I wanted Zac to know how much he means to everyone.
“He’s 100 per cent going to make it through the treatment in America, but it’s a long road.
“The costs will keep rising, even though we’ve reached the total of £500,000 pounds, it’s only the beginning.
“I’m hooked to fundraising now though, I won’t stop – whatever mad things people want me to do, I’ll do them.
“Zac will need the money, and so will other families who are going through the same.
“This fight isn’t over, but I want Zac to know how much he’s loved.
“That’s why I’ve got this tattoo.”
Despite raising the funds, the family still had an anxious wait before they could set off.
Zac and his mum, Hannah Oliver-Willets, 33, travelled to Philadelphia, US, for Cart T Cell therapy which doctors claim will give Zac a greater chance of survival than both a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy – the only two options in the UK.
Wayne was there to see Hannah and Zac off at the airport and described the pair as nervous, but relieved.
Wayne said: “After Zac caught a bug we had to wait for it to go.
“We needed his levels back to normal but it’s just stress all the time.
“You can’t put it into words, you just want him on that plane so he can have the treatment he needs to save his life.”
“After they arrived, Hannah has text me to say Zac had his stem cells taken out.
“They’re going to create them into almost super soldiers now, a training camp specifically focused on taking out his cancer.
“We were lucky that we raised money so quickly and that he’s still in good health and we could get him out there.”
After being first diagnosed in May 2018, family, friends and complete strangers rallied around Zac, completing everything from a fundraising gig called ‘Zacfest’ to naming a gritter after him.
Yet it took an anonymous donation to tip the final amount over to a staggering £500,000.
This groundbreaking treatment has come at a heavy cost, and Zac’s battle is far from over.
It’s likely more money will be needed, as Zac’s treatment is ongoing and the next stage will require him to be there for months at a time.
The treatment will be ongoing for the next four years, with the visits becoming more sporadic.
Speaking at the time, Zac’s mum, Hannah, said: “Only 0.5 per cent of children diagnosed with leukaemia suffer from his type which is called Near-Haploid.
“Time is not on our side, but we will do everything to give Zac a fighting chance.
“A long shot is better than no shot at all.”