On the day that Lisa Griffiths heard the words from every parent’s nightmares – that her son had blood cancer – family life was turned upside down.
Hugo was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood leukaemia, aged just two, after experiencing problems walking and becoming tired and pale.
Thanks to research, and after enduring five stages of intensive treatment, Hugo, now four, is starting school and looking forward to the end of his treatment.
But as a new report released by blood cancer research charity, Bloodwise, has highlighted, there is still much to be done to develop more effective and gentler treatments, especially for children like Hugo.
The report’s author, medical journalist John Illman, explains there is a need to find a kinder cure: “Having to endure three years of chemotherapy would be a harsh treatment for anyone, but more so for a little boy of four like Hugo. His nurses wear protective goggles and gloves to administer his drugs because they are so toxic.”
Hugo’s gruelling regime of drugs has taken its toll. His mobility has been particularly affected and he currently needs a wheelchair and regular physio to make his legs strong enough to take his weight again. For his parents, the fear that his blood cancer could come back is ever present and his treatment may have effects for many years in the future.
With the help of Bloodwise, Lisa and her family are learning to take one day at a time. “Hugo has a very serious, life-changing illness, but he’s still with us. Every day he makes me so proud of how he doesn’t let the harsh effects of his treatment stop him smiling or having fun. Thanks to supporters of Bloodwise we have seen there is hope in research.”
Though investment in research has meant that survival rates for children with leukaemia have improved dramatically, two out of every ten children diagnosed with the most common type of leukaemia won’t survive in the long-term. Sadly blood cancer is still the most common cancer in children and another family in the UK is told their child has blood cancer every day.
Bloodwise is working to change this and, thanks to its supporters, almost every scientist and doctor within blood cancer research in the UK has worked on projects that have received Bloodwise funding. Among these are researchers at the University of Glasgow who are currently developing new targeted treatments for leukaemia which spare normal cells – providing hope of more effective and kinder treatments and, ultimately, a cure.
Stacy Rowan is regional manager of Bloodwide in Scotland. For more information about blood cancer or the work that Bloodwise does, please visit bloodwise.org.uk/hugo. For further information on Bloodwise in Scotland, please visit bloodwise.org.uk/scotland Or contact Stacy on 0131-524 1324