Mum shares bravery of toddler, two, battling rare childhood cancer
- Credit: Shelley Warrent
The mum of a Norwich toddler battling a rare childhood cancer has a spoken of the pride she has for her son's bravery.
Oscar Warrent, two, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in November, five weeks after remedies for sickness bug he picked up at nursery failed to alleviate his symptoms.
Originally thought to have been constipated, Oscar was seen by GPs and doctors at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) before it was then found by clinicians at Addenbrooke's in Cambridge that a mass in his bladder was obstructing his kidneys and urethra, leaving him in extreme discomfort.
The Heartsease family, originally from Plumstead, are "completely overwhelmed" by the support of family and friends throughout Oscar's cancer battle, documented on Facebook, which has seen him undergo surgery to insert drains into his bladder and both kidneys to bypass the blockage - and will remain in place until at least March.
Already having chemotherapy to treat his cancer, it's expected he'll need between six and eight rounds before then going on to have radiotherapy, with the potential for further surgery to rid him of cancer for good.
The treatment has led to Oscar losing his hair - so four-year-old brother William, as well as grandparents Stephen and Joanne, have all braved the shave in solidarity to match Oscar's new look.
"He would spend all day crying," said mum Shelley. "He'd be sitting on the sofa. You knew he wasn't well, because he used to be such a smiley and happy child.
"In the five weeks that it took to find the cancer, he'd just sit on the sofa, and every time he needed to strain, he'd get up and stand, smack things, or he'd headbutt us because he was in so much pain.
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"He is a completely different child now. He hasn't been the same."
The obstructions in his bladder have caused him a range of problems, and it's also causing his bladder to spasm, further adding to his distress.
Shelley added: "It's one of those things where you see other people, other children - as horrible as it sounds - going through this, and you never think that it's going to happen to you. And then it happens to you, and you just don't know what the hell you're going to do.
"Me and my husband haven't really processed it properly, it hasn't sunk in that he's got cancer."
On top of this, Shelley herself has been battling ill health, with husband Ryan as her primary carer. And, with four children - Lily, eight, Mason, six and William, four - it often means that Shelley and Ryan have to be apart to ensure Oscar is getting the care and treatment he needs.
"For us two to be apart, as well as looking after a child who's not very well, either - it's all a lot to go through."
A fundraiser to support the family was set up by Shelley's best friend Chantal Hogg - affectionately known as Auntie Telly by the children.
"She's family. She wanted to set it up because, obviously we're travelling backwards and forwards and it was getting expensive.
"When he's at NNUH, they feed parents, whereas Addenbrooke's don't," she added, admitting that on stays in Cambridge, she found herself living out of fast food restaurant.
"She just wanted to help us, and didn't want us to be in a position where we had to worry about money.
"We're completely overwhelmed with it all. Especially as we've got people that have donated £50 to Oscar, and they don't even know us.
"He had an Amazon wish list, and the amount of he's had through the post - it was like Christmas at one point!
"It was a nice distraction for him. He loved his toys that came through.
"We're honestly so proud of him, and how much he's put up with. He does get agitated in hospital, but that's to be expected. For a child - a two-year-old, for what he's going through, he's doing really, really well.
To donate to the Warrent family, visit gofund.me/0f6c27a1.
What is rhabdomyosarcoma?
Rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of soft tissue tumour, with fewer than 60 children diagnosed with the type of cancer in the UK each year. Most children diagnosed with this form of cancer age under the age of 10. Although most cases of Rhabdomyosarcoma are diagnosed in children and teens, they can also occur in adults.
Rhabdomyosarcoma symptoms vary depending on the affected area, but can include a tumour that can be seen or felt, unexplained bleeding, a lump or swelling that continues to grow, headaches and trouble with bladder and bowel movements.
Treated by combinations of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, rhabdomyosarcomas are generally treated in specialist hospitals and centres, with side effects being short-term, gradually disappearing once treatment stops.