Edinburgh mum left in 'utter shock' by three-year-old son's sudden cancer diagnosis

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Paula McGuire’s life was turned upside down by the shock diagnosis.

A mum from Edinburgh has seen her life turned upside down after her three-year-old boy received a shock cancer diagnosis.

Paula McGuire, 34, is originally from the Capital but moved to Arran with her Polish husband Piotr eight years ago.

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They share three children - Thomas and Andrew, who were the first twins born in Scotland in 2021, and five-year-old Clara.

Thomas is described by his parents as 'beautiful' and 'adventurous'Thomas is described by his parents as 'beautiful' and 'adventurous'
Thomas is described by his parents as 'beautiful' and 'adventurous' | Handout

Despite grieving the death of Paula’s mother last September, the family were well settled into island life before Thomas took ill last month.

The identical twins were undergoing treatment for an iron deficiency before Thomas, described as ‘beautiful’ and ‘adventurous’, took a sudden turn for the worse and was diagnosed with leukaemia.

Paula told the Evening News: “When they said leukaemia I was just in utter shock. I couldn’t speak for about an hour.

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“He and his brother were diagnosed with autism in March. They had blood tests and they said they both had a low iron count, so they were on iron supplements for three months.

“Thomas, the whole month of May, kind of just lost his energy. He was bruising easy, he didn’t want to play with his brother and sister or friends and he just wanted to be with me, watching telly.

“It was really strange for him because he’s usually energetic but I just put it down to low iron and never thought anything of it. He woke up on May 29 with a big rash all over his body.

The young family's lives have been rockedThe young family's lives have been rocked
The young family's lives have been rocked | Handout

“He was also walking with a limp, which is quite a big characteristic of kids with leukaemia because their joints are all inflamed. We originally thought it might have been meningitis.

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“He was rushed up to Arran hospital and then got transferred over to Crosshouse. There, they told us it was leukaemia and we were put in an ambulance straight up to the Queen Elizabeth in Glasgow.

“There are a few different types of leukaemia but this one has the best outcomes. It’s the most treatable one and it’s up to the high-90s of success rate.

“It will be a gruelling few years of coming in and out of hospitals, though. It will be challenging for Thomas and for everybody, really.

The other kids are missing their brotherThe other kids are missing their brother
The other kids are missing their brother | Handout

Thomas started chemotherapy within two days of being admitted to hospital and is under a gruelling regime that involves four different drugs and regular blood transfusions.

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Paula said: “He’s responding really well to it all. He’s still eating and drinking. He’s on steroids so he’s full of energy at points and then he’s low on energy.

“The white blood cell count is what we have to watch. It needs to come down and it’s coming down nicely, so so far so good.”

Meanwhile, Paula and Piotr have been forced to consider what their lives will look like in the coming years.

Thomas could have to spend three years attending hospital in Glasgow as an outpatient, a prospect which would make their island lifestyle difficult.

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With Clara at school and Piotr having to return to his full-time job on Arran, they face being separated at the most turbulent of times. Paula said the other kids were devastated by Thomas’ illness.

She added: “Clara does know because, with what happened to my mum, she’s absolutely terrified about it. I’m trying to explain to her that it’s a different kind of cancer.

“She’s got a really close bond with Thomas, they always have. She’s really worried about him.

“Thomas and Andrew don’t speak, they’re non verbal. Andrew’s oblivious but the boys are missing each other.

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“Thomas is asking for his dad and the others are asking for us. It’s hard because we should all be together.”

Paula has had to give up her part-time job as a cleaner - and the financial strain of becoming a one-income family while having to toll out for travel costs looks set to be a huge challenge.

They are also considering moving closer to the hospital, a change made all the more complicated by their loss of earnings.

“We’ve never claimed for anything in my life”, Paula continued.

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“I’m now looking at at least a few years of not making any money for myself and it’s tough.

“From what the nurses are saying, it’s better to be based closer to the hospital because you’re in sometimes two or three or even four times a week.

“Some people are saying that we might get to go home because they could do some of the testing from Arran, but there haven’t really been cases of children with leukaemia on the island. There just aren’t many kids.”

The family are fundraising for financial help following the diagnosis. You can donate to their GoFundMe page here.

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