Boy diagnosed with aggressive cancer weeks before 4th birthday

A "fit and healthy" young boy who showed no signs of being ill was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer just weeks after his fourth birthday - after a routine blood test.

Oliver Stephenson went for a check-up after his parents suspected he may be anaemic, but just 48 hours later he had been diagnosed with stage four Neuroblastoma.

Little Oliver, who lives with his two-year-old brother Alfie, was taken in for a blood test on January 16 when his parents Laura and James noticed he was looking pale and tired.

As he had celebrated his birthday on Boxing Day and the family had had a busy Christmas period, they put it down to fatigue.

Doctors took blood and called the couple the same night to say they had to take him into hospital the next day.

Laura, 34, and James, 32, from Ackworth, West Yorks., were left devastated when doctors told them the "worst thing" they could ever hear - that they had discovered a tumour on his kidney.

The cancer, a rare type that develops from immature nerve cells and affects around 100 children in the UK each year, had tragically spread to his skull, eye sockets and bone marrow.

Laura said: "I thought I was going to be sick when they told me it was cancer. It was the worst thing you could ever hear.

"It was like a scene from a movie, I felt like we were living someone else's life."

Oliver has undergone two operations since his diagnosis and faces at least a year of treatment, Laura said.

While he has been able to return home, he must undergo chemotherapy at Leeds General Infirmary every ten days.

In between the sessions, which see him stay in hospital for three days, he is visited by a nurse who administers an injection every day.

Laura said that while the family try to live as normal a life as possible, the daily injections have already taken their toll on "happy and smiley" Oliver.

She added: "The chemo isn't really making him poorly at the minute and he has gone back to nursery this week.

"We are just trying to keep his life as normal as possible and it really perked him up that he could go back to nursery and see his friends.

"When he is in hospital, they attach his medicine to the Hickman line so they don't need to inject him and they make a fuss of him.

"He doesn't get poked and prodded in hospital, but he's devastated when the nurse comes to the house, he hates the injections.

"He's still happy and still smiling as best he can. Sometimes we look at him and wonder how he can be so poorly.

"We are just a normal family, living a normal life then this happened and knocked us for six.

"We had a big family holiday to Florida planned for this year, which we have had to cancel.

"Oliver was really looking forward to meeting Mickey Mouse, he's heartbroken about it."

Laura hopes to take Oliver to the USA for pioneering Bivalent treatment, which is hoped will reduce the risk of the cancer returning if Chemotherapy is successful.

The family is now campaigning to raise £230,000 to cover the costs of the treatment and travel for the treatment.

If successful, it would be organised by the Bradley Lowery Foundation, set up by the parents of the inspirational six-year-old who tragically lost his battle with Neuroblastoma in 2017.

The foundation was set up by Bradley's mum Gemma who wanted to help families fund treatment and also support research into neuroblastoma and childhood cancers.

She said: "Even if he goes into remission, he has a high chance of it coming back.

"It is a clinical trial and it is only available in America and it is a series of seven trips, so we'd need to cover the cost of travel, accommodation and the treatment.

"The Bradley Lowery Foundation would arrange everything for us if and when Oliver gets the all clear.

"You have to start the treatment within 45 days of going into remission, so we need the money available and be ready to go as soon as he enters remission.

"We won't know that until he has finished his chemotherapy."

The family have organised fundraising events and have so far raised more than £12,000 of their target.

Laura added: "It would mean the world to us to raise the money. It could be life-saving.

"To me and James, this could save our son's life."

James is also planning to run the Great North Run in September to help boost the fund.