THE parents of a toddler diagnosed with a rare cancer have spoken about his devastating illness as he marks his second birthday.
Bradley Lowery is one of only 100 children a year to be diagnosed with the aggressive childhood cancer neuroblastoma.
Tests showed it started in his adrenal glands, with tumours developing in his chest, lymph nodes, bones and bone marrow.
Doctors give those with the illness a 50/50 chance of survival, with 80 per cent of those who are declared clear expected to suffer a relapse.
His parents Gemma and Carl, both 30, were floored by the diagnosis after a hernia and twisted stomach and bowel were suspected of being to blame for his illness until the true cause was confirmed.
They had made repeated visits to the doctors until Bradley was rushed to A&E when his health deteriorated.
Now, as he starts a programme of treatment at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, his family are campaigning to raise £500,000 for treatment in the US to fight any relapse he may suffer.
Gemma, a NHS health trainer at Healthworks, in Easington Colliery, described the couple’s “mega shock” at Bradley’s diagnosis and added: “We just take every day as it comes, that’s the only thing we can do.”
Carl, who is a self-employed builder and runs Ridgepoint North East, added: “It affects your whole life.
“But everything he’s gone through, he’s taken and come back from, he’s amazing.
“At hospital, he’s coped so well.”
So far, £15,000 has been raised thanks to a host of events, including Hetton Juniors, SAFC Foundation Whites and East Coast FC, the teams Bradley’s brother Kieran, 11, has played for.
Bradley’s nursery Giant Steps, at the Sure Start centre near the family’s Blackhall home, and Healthworks are also among supporters.
Others have donated cash to allow the couple to take time off work to spend with their youngster.
Gemma added: “When we get to the stage of relapse treatment, we don’t want to start fund-raising then and have to get £500,000, it needs to be there.
“If he doesn’t need the treatment for whatever reason, then it will be used for someone else who does, because there will be other children who benefit.
“I don’t know how to put into words how nice everybody has been.
“We’ve got a lot of friends and family, but our community, I just want to say how proud we are of them and what they have done for Bradley.
“Total strangers ask if he’s okay. We get messages asking if they can raise money, and I can’t get across how grateful we are.
“If there’s one thing to have come out of this, it’s been finding out how good people are.”
Bradley’s treatment so far has included a chemotherapy, which has killed off the cancer’s cells in his bone marrow and reduced the main tumour on his adrenal glands, with another form of the drug now being tried.
At one stage of his early treatment, medics had a crash trolley outside his room because they feared he would need to be revived.
He will also undergo further rounds of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, and be given immunotherapy to try and prevent a relapse.
His stem cells have been harvested, which involves freezing part of his blood, and will be given back to him to aid his recovery during the high doses of chemotherapy.
The programme is expected to take up to 18 months before the treatment to fight a relapse is needed.
The family is updating supporters about their campaign and Bradley’s progress via the Facebook page, Bradley Lowery’s Fight Against Neroblastoma, and on Twitter via @Bradleysfight, where anyone who would like to help can contact them.