A BRAVE six-year-old has flown to the United States to undergo potentially life-saving cancer treatment after his family rallied to raise £40,000 in just three weeks.
Jayden Nicol, from Whitburn, faces six gruelling weeks of therapy across the Atlantic after first falling ill in April. His family worked round the clock to collect the cash needed to fund their visit to Florida after doctors in the Capital insisted the move was their best hope.
And last week, before he left the country, Jayden was visited by city boxer Stephen Simmons, who added £550 to the pot after auctioning off a pair of his title-winning gloves.
“I thought he was a true inspiration – what a great little fighter,” Mr Simmons said after defending his WBC International Silver Cruiserweight belt against Wadi Camacho last month.
“This is the first time I’ve given away my fight gloves because I usually give them to someone close to me – but I thought it was a great cause.”
Power Rangers fanatic Jayden was first seen by doctors when his family took him to St John’s Hospital in Livingston after he was sick every morning for weeks.
Initial tests failed to establish the extent of his illness and he was sent home with acid reflux medication.
It was only during a second visit a few days later that an MRI scan revealed a “massive” tumour on his brain stem.
He was then diagnosed with an ependymoma, a rare form of tumour which affects the central nervous system, before undergoing a ten-hour operation at the Sick Kids hospital to remove it.
The surgery left Croftmalloch Primary School pupil Jayden in a wheelchair, and he has since had four titanium pins inserted into his head to keep it still during treatment.
He and mum Angela, auntie Lee and 14-year-old sister Janie are now in Jacksonville, Florida, where he will undergo specialised proton beam treatment five days a week – although doctors have warned there are no guarantees the cancer will not return.
After being urged to travel to the US, the family raised an astonishing £40,300 to cover the cost of accommodation and food, while the NHS will pick up the bill for the treatment.
Fundraising events as part of the Just for Jayden campaign included a soul night at Sneaky Pete’s and football matches.
Jayden’s grandad, Jim McEwan, 67, said the family had been left “shattered” by the diagnosis. He said: “On the way to hospital, my wife was on the internet and said ‘as long as it’s not the stem, we are OK’, so you can imagine what it was like finding out.”
Jayden’s big-hearted primary two classmates have also shown their support by raising £3500 and sending cards across the Atlantic.
“Money is coming from all over the place – it’s absolutely fantastic,” Mr McEwan said.
Low damage risk
PROTON beam therapy is a type of radiotherapy used to treat hard-to-reach cancers, with a lower risk of damaging the surrounding tissue and causing side effects.
Patients requiring the therapy are sent for treatment in the United States because the only centre using proton therapy here is in Merseyside, which treats rare forms of eye cancer.
A total of 370 patients have been approved for proton therapy abroad – which costs around £90,000 per person – since the programme started in 2008. Two-thirds of them are children.