LEON Rendle’s grieving mum has told how she’s preparing for the hardest day of her life – saying a final goodbye to her brave boy.
Nickie Rendle said she had been boosted by overwhelming support and thousands of messages in memory of 16-year-old Leon, who lost his fight against a rare cancer last month.
She paid an emotional tribute to the medical staff who tried their best to help Leon pull through and, as it became clear he was losing his fight for life, who supported the family right to the end.
“Every one of them has been amazing, the anaesthetists, the consultants, the nurses . . . they’ve all been incredible,” she said. “I don’t know how they do their job. We can’t thank them enough.”
She paid particular tribute to Nicola Davison, an outreach nurse based at the Sick Kids, who arranged for Leon to chat to his idol Norman Reedus, star of US drama The Walking Dead, in a Skype call.
The half-hour link-up in January left Leon thrilled and boosted his spirits just as his condition began to worsen.
Nickie, dad James and sister Chloe will lead hundreds of mourners at Warriston Crematorium today when football fan Leon is laid to rest dressed in his Hibs tartan kilt. His dad will also be dressed in Hibs tartan, as will the pallbearers –even though three of them are Hearts supporters.
Nickie said the family was still coming to terms with losing Leon after a three-year battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone and soft tissue cancer.
“We always knew he had a fight on his hands,” said Nickie, 43. “Late last year he was undergoing trials in Newcastle and we were told then that his tumour had shrunk to almost nothing.
“Things were looking good. But then it popped up again and this time it was in his head and neck. It was devastating.”
Leon underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However his condition quickly worsened.
“He was at the point where we had to carry him upstairs, he wasn’t comfortable,” said Nickie. “It was hard, because of course you don’t want to lose them, but you don’t want to see them suffer. But it’s hard to think he’s not going to be here. It’s going to take a very long time for us all to get used to that, if we ever do.”
Leon was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in 2013. The condition is rare and affects only around 30 children in the UK every year.
Leon’s form of the condition was even more unusual, as it affected his tissue. He had chemotherapy, surgery and a stem-cell transplant.
He went into remission but then there was devastating news that the cancer had returned and was incurable.
The family was still coming to terms with the news when they headed to Canada for a pre-arranged holiday.
While there, Hibs fan Leon had a surprise meeting with England and Toronto FC striker Jermain Defoe, who had heard of his plight, and the pair had a kick around on the pitch.
Leon later met stars of Manchester United at Old Trafford and Hibs players at Easter Road, and was a baton bearer during the 2014 Commonwealth Games, running during the Meadowbank stretch. However, there was disappointment when his hopes of travelling to Florida for a “bucket list” holiday with his family was scuppered by insurance firms who priced cover at £50,000.
The Leith Academy pupil also became one of the faces of Cancer Research UK’s Stand up to Cancer campaign. He said at the time: “I’m Standing up to Cancer because no-one should have to go through what I’ve gone through.”
Despite his brave battle, Leon died at home with his parents by his side on February 19.
Nickie added: “It was very peaceful. We were with him, talking to him all the time. We’ve been inundated with messages and it’s been hard to go through them all now, but I will.
“Unfortunately the tumour didn’t seem to want to give Leon up. We’re incredibly proud of how he fought and smiled through.”