City lad Malachi, 11, battling cancer initially thought to be Covid
- Credit: Make-A-Wish
A brave little boy from a Norwich suburb who was originally diagnosed with Covid complications is instead being treated for cancer.
Eleven-year-old Malachi Gray-Read from Little Plumstead's world was turned upside down earlier this year when he was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer.
In February, aged 10, Malachi was taken to A&E by his mum Alicia following complaints of severe ankle and knee pain that then spread to his lower back.
There, he was diagnosed with a post-viral condition as a result of contracting Covid.
He was put on a high dose of ibuprofen.
But within four days the youngster had been re-diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) - a type of cancer which affects white blood cells.
Alicia, 31, said in that moment her life, as well as Malachi's dad Caleb and his siblings Noah, eight, and Amariah, four, "was turned upside down".
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She explained how Malachi went from bouncing bundle of energy one day to not being able to walk the next.
"Telling Malachi he had cancer - we were absolutely beside ourselves," she said.
"He's so strong. We've always known there was something unique about him. He's always been able to be himself and be a leader.
"He's really fulfilled that but more so now he's gone through all this.
"He was a strong child before. His resilience resounds the most because he tackles every challenge and he's had so many. He's had every side effect possible due to every drug he's had."
Malachi was flung into spells of treatment which has included operations on his heart and chemotherapy.
He will continue to have treatment to manage his cancer until he turns 16.
As well as battling ALL, Malachi developed steroid-induced diabetes - which meant he had to have finger prick tests seven times a day and insulin injections twice a day.
He also had issues with his kidney function and was rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties.
"Malachi is loved by so many friends," Alicia added.
"He loves school and football but he hasn't been able to attend for months. It's only in this last week or so he's managed a couple of hours at school.
"He would always be playing football, always.
"He was just getting to that stage where he could go out to the park with his friends which he was absolutely loving.
"His biggest passion is his X-Box. Gaming has been such a lifeline for him."
The mum-of-three added: "There is such a poor stigma around gaming but in this circumstance it has been a way he has been able to completely zone out from everything.
"Even when he's been really poorly it's still been something he's been able to do.
"It keeps him in contact with friends from school and makes him feel like he's still present. He's really missed it."
To ease Malachi's cancer journey, Malachi is asking for a gaming PC to distract him from his gruelling treatment and keep him connected with his friends through non-profit Make-A-Wish.
Jason Suckley, chief executive of Make-A-Wish, said: "When a child like Malachi is diagnosed with a critical condition, the joy of childhood is brought to an abrupt end with treatment plans, hospital appointments and worry taking over.
"The power of a wish can light up the darkness for children living with a critical condition, leaving a profound and lasting impact on their lives."
The Gray-Read's extended family has also set up a GoFundMe to help with expenses, travel costs and anything that may be needed through their challenging time.
Alicia added: "We're a close family but this has brought us closer together. It's had a huge impact on us.
"It's been a hard journey for everyone. There's been a change in normality.
"We all had to isolate for five weeks from his diagnosis. Everything just stopped.
"But Malachi has been such a trouper. He's one-of-a-kind. He's made this journey easier.
"The days I've fallen apart are the days that I've struggled, because he doesn't realise how much he helps me to manage this journey."