The devastated parents of a 14-year-old boy who lost his fight with cancer have said “Our hearts have been ripped out”.
Hearts fan Peter Ashton, who had kept an online diary about his battle with leukaemia, posted a heartbreaking goodbye on Facebook.
In his final message the Newbattle Community High pupil wrote: “This my last text to all, the cancer has got so aggressive now. My body can’t fight it any more. Thank you for all the support you all have given me. I still want to fight this, but my body can’t. I love you all.”
Father Jason, 41, said: “I feel like my heart has been ripped out, so does his mum.”
Jason, who works in the building trade, said he played a recording of Hearts fans applauding his son in tribute to the boy’s bravery, on Sunday.
Tragic Peter was in a coma at the time after suffering a seizure.
“I played it to him and his eyes were moving so I think he did hear it,” Jason said.
“He was given two to three days to live last Tuesday, when he went back into the hospital. But he still fought it all the way. He was a remarkable young man.”
Peter posted the Facebook message last week.
The schoolboy was a huge Hearts fan and he had met some of the team and his idol, winger Jamie Walker, visited him in hospital in recent months.
Peter’s leukaemia had developed into a more aggressive form. He suffered a major brain seizure at the end of last week. Before that he suffered bleeding on the brain and a stroke.
Thousands of Hearts fans joined together in applause to honour the teenager during the match against St Johnstone at Tynecastle on Sunday.
Jason, who has been on compassionate leave to accompany his son during treatment, said he was “humbled” by Peter’s determination to beat cancer and to inspire followers of his site “Peter Ashton’s Journey”.
The father said he and his wife Mary, 40, and Peter’s sister Gemma, 12, had been overwhelmed by the messages of support.
“It has just amazed us. People have followed Peter on his journey,” Jason said. “It’s very humbling. I feel so proud.
“It was like an inner belief that he was going to keep going. It didn’t matter what kind of day he had, he always had a smile on his face. He wouldn’t ever tell the nurses when he was in pain.”
Peter launched his Facebook page in January, following diagnosis in October.
He kept his 2000-strong followers updated on his treatment, including chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant at Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow.
But last week, he posted a final, heartbreaking message to say that he had taken a turn for the worst.
“The Facebook page was his idea,” Jason said. “He had the page for his friends to keep in contact when he was in the hospital.
“But he decided it would be nice for somebody that’s been newly diagnosed to have a place to see what he was doing. I don’t think he expected the response that he got.
“He had that cheekiness in him, and a heart of gold.”
The family said they wanted to thank all the doctors and nurses at the Sick Kids and at Yorkhill hospitals and charities Teenage Cancer Trust, CLASP and the John Hartson Foundation.
“If we didn’t have them we would have been lost,” said Jason. “They were absolutely fantastic. We went to Blackpool for a few days, they organised that for us.”
Peter’s beloved football club paid tribute to the schoolboy following the news of his death yesterday morning.
“Everyone is deeply saddened by the tragic news,” a spokesman said. “It was very difficult but quite inspiring and emotional on Sunday, when the whole stadium was applauding for him, including the St Johnstone fans and the directors’ box, during the 14th minute.”
Hearts had been in talks with Peter’s family about visiting him at home in Mayfield, Dalkeith, to give him a chance to view the Championship trophy.
Officials are hoping to give the family a film of Sunday’s football match so they can watch the full footage of the applause tribute for themselves.
Local councillor Alex Bennett, said Peter’s death had shocked residents of Dalkeith and the surrounding area.
“The whole community is absolutely devastated,” he said. “Peter has had a long battle but we were all just hoping that it was going to be a positive outcome. It’s really sad.”
Cllr Bennett said that local residents had recently rallied round to take part in a fundraising raffle for Teenage Cancer Trust in Peter’s honour.
Newbattle Community High headteacher Colin Taylor, said: “All at Newbattle CHS. are extremely saddened by the news today of Peter’s death after a long and brave fight against cancer.
“Peter was a popular boy in school with a keen sense of humour who enjoyed helping others.
“He attended Mayfield Primary School before moving to Newbattle and one of his fondest memories was his week at Dounan’s Camp in Aberfoyle.
“Peter enjoyed sport and he had a keen interest in football. During his last visit to the school he was keen to tell us about his love of Hearts and how he had received a visit from first-team player Jamie Walker.
“He was very appreciative of the medical care he was receiving and inspired the school to fundraise on behalf of the Teenage Cancer Trust. Peter will be sorely missed by all at Newbattle. Our thoughts are with Peter’s family at this time.”