WATCHING your child suffer with life-threatening illness is nightmarish enough for any parent. But Portobello musician William Douglas and his wife Ruth were left despondent when their son’s brain cancer returned after a previous recovery.
Little Sol was only four when he was diagnosed with a large brain tumour. He made a brave recovery with the support of his family and the staff at Edinburgh Sick Children’s Hospital.
Now aged six, Sol has started school and had appeared to be making progress, but his recovery hit a setback after doctors discovered two tumours on his brain.
But rock ‘n’ roll Dad William is not lying down – he and his band Miracle Glass Company are set to play an all-day family-oriented gig alongside a raft of other Scottish bands, with the aim of raising money to support the family and fund Sol’s potential treatments.
“The gig was my manager Bob Wallace’s idea and it’s a lovely gesture,” said William.
“The band were booked to play a load of gigs around the country and we had to cancel them all because I need to be with Sol.
“But he organised this fundraiser specifically in Edinburgh. It’s just brilliant.”
Sol underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy for the first tumour in early 2016, finishing treatment a year later. But two months ago, routine scans again showed tumours in his brain and cancer cells clumping in his spine.
The news came just as he was showing excellent progress in dealing with Posterior Fossa Syndrome, a condition that arose from his surgery that left him unable to walk, talk or eat solid foods for months.
Due to the previous surgery, doctors said another round of chemotherapy would be potentially damaging, leaving Sol with few remaining options on the NHS. William said “the whole world fell from under him” when he heard the news.
“I was depressed for several weeks,” said William. “I was very down – it’s so hard to explain. When I’m not playing with the band, I work as a guitar teacher, but I had to cancel lessons. I didn’t want to let down the kids I teach because it’s not fair on them if I’m not in the right mood.
“I’m kind of out of it now, but that’s because we needed to do everything we could to help him. We’re trying so hard to make sure we’re all eating well and exercising so we’re healthy enough to help Sol. His brain’s so fragile and I just need to be close to him.”
Sol’s to receive no treatment while he recovers from surgery that has “left his brain fragile” and doctors are working to find special treatments that could help him. In the meantime, he’s working at walking up and down steps and occasionally goes to school for half days at Towerbank Primary.
“At the moment, Sol’s happy,” said William. “It’s what he’s like and we try to keep him as healthy as possible. He only goes to school on low pressure days, but the kids really miss him when he’s not there.
“When he was first away, they sent him a big card and teachers would ask the kids what they thought he was up to each morning. They all hugged him when he came back. Everyone’s been excellent about it all.”
Sol’s bravery has inspired a dozen bands from around the country to play the all-day fundraiser, which is to be held at The Old Dr Bells Baths on April 22. Acts include Kyle Falconer of The View, Medicine Men, Black Cat Bone, Callum Easter and Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5, who played this year’s Hogmanay Party on Princes Street.
Frontman John Thomas “McMustard” said: “Miracle Glass Company are one of The Dijon 5’s favourite bands. Good people from different musical backgrounds are coming together to help William, Sol and their family in difficult circumstances.
“We hope it will be a positive day for the family. Kids are allowed in up until 5pm as it is going to be a real family friendly day.”
William’s 60s and 70s inspired three-piece Miracle Glass Company, who have received play from the likes of BBC Scotland, will also be one of the headliners. William sings and plays bass in the band, but says “they all write, sing and belt out three-part harmonies”.
Fundraisers are looking to raise at least £10,000 for William and Ruth, who are both self-employed and currently not working so they can support their son. William said a sum of that amount “would help a whole lot”.
“We want to get him the right treatment, preferably one that has had success with other kids,” he said. “Going abroad is difficult and costs a lot and we need to be ready to fly out somewhere in case something comes up.
“There’s more to it than that, it would help us be a family again. As well as me and Ruth, Sol has an older brother called Theo who’s nearly ten. It’s been really difficult for him, too. One of our goals is to live with Sol in the moment and enjoy our time together. I don’t how long I’ve got left with my son.
“I’m really grateful to all the bands who are coming along to play and anyone who’s thinking of coming along. It helps us beyond measure.”