A DEAST mother shared this heartbreaking photo of her twins kissing – while one of them was diagnosed with rare leukemia.
It is the first time that Fox Parkin, aged three, is separated from his sister Winter as he begins a grueling cancer cure.
Parents Holly and Tom Parkin, of Plymouth, Devon, didn’t think about it much when he was diagnosed with tonsillitis in October last year.
Antibiotics were prescribed, but his symptoms returned and his temperature began to rise.
On Christmas day, Holly noticed a disturbing rash on the back of her legs and took him to the hospital where the doctors performed the tests.
They revealed that they have acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a rare form of blood cancer, which affects only 200 people each year in the UK.
Now, Fox faces months of treatment – which includes having intravenous arsenic, more familiar as a poison, but it can be highly effective when used in medicine.
Holly, 35, said: “As expected, the diagnosis broke our hearts.
“I know the alternative is worse, but it is brutal to face the fact that my son has arsenic in his body.
“No child should face it.”
The diagnosis broke our hearts
Up to now, Fox and Winter, who had turned three on January 3, were happy and healthy twins, who always recovered quickly from childhood insects, according to Holly.
But when Fox developed tonsillitis, everything changed and, in December, he returned with revenge.
“I thought maybe Fox would be one of those poor children who has tonsillitis all the time,” he said.
“How I wish it were true.”
Returning to the GP, Fox received a new prescription for antibiotics, but this time they didn’t work, even when the dosage was increased.
So when his temperature kept rising, Holly called NHS 111 and was given an overtime appointment.
“It was a Friday night,” he said. “They told us to stick with the weekend and come back if it wasn’t better.
“At that point, Fox hadn’t eaten properly for nearly a week, so he had also lost a lot of weight.”
By Monday, Fox seemed to have turned a corner, looking a little more himself.
And a few days later, on Christmas day, he woke up looking perfectly happy and excited to open gifts with his sister.
But soon things got worse.
“Winter and Fox took the scooters for Christmas and we said we would all go to the park so they could play with them,” said Holly.
“Fox was changing from his pajamas when I noticed a rash on his legs that wasn’t bleaching.
“Immediately, my brain said,” meningitis “, since I knew that a rash could be a telltale sign.”
By calling 111 again, he agreed to go to Derriford hospital, where the doctors didn’t think he had meningitis, but agreed that he was very ill.
“They ran blood tests, but said it would be a few hours before the results returned,” Holly recalled.
“So, we went home to start Christmas dinner and pass the time – but within an hour my phone was ringing with the doctors telling us to go back to the hospital.
“With the speed with which they called, I knew it wouldn’t be nice.”
What is acute myeloid leukemia and what are the symptoms?
Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that affects bone marrow cells and attacks the immune system.
The disease is often classified as what type of cell is affected (myeloid or lymphatic) and how it progresses (acute or chronic).
Acute leukemia is when it is progressing aggressively and requires immediate attention.
The risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia (AML) increases with age, with the most common cancer in adults over the age of 65.
Typically the symptoms of AML can become more severe over time.
According to the NHS website, the signs to watch out for include:
- pale skin
- frequent infections
- unusual and frequent bleeding, such as bleeding gums or nosebleeds
The outlook for the sick can vary depending on the type you have, your age and health.
Numerous medical tests have suggested that nearly half of people under the age of 60 diagnosed with AML will live for at least five years, according to the NHS website.
In some types of AML, such as acute promyeloid leukemia, around 85% will live for at least five years.
The prospects for children are generally better than adults.
Back in Derriford, doctors explained that Fox had an abnormally low blood cell count and would have required a transfusion.
“At that point, we still needed the full results before we could understand exactly what was going on,” explained Holly.
“So Tom came home to get some things, as if one of us had stayed overnight with Fox.
“After his departure, a consultant came over to ask where he was, saying they would wait until he came back to talk to both of them.
“Then I knew it wasn’t good news, but when Tom came back and we were led to this side room with fabrics and sofas, my heart sank.”
When we were led into this side room with fabrics and sofas, my heart sank
Doctors told devoted parents that Fox had leukemia, a white blood cell tumor.
After a night in the highly addicted unit, he was transferred to Bristol Royal Hospital for Children for a bone marrow biopsy, to determine exactly what form of the disease he had.
“Until then, we’ve kept hope that doctors could be wrong, that Fox couldn’t have what they said they did,” said Holly.
“But the results showed that he had a form of leukemia called APL. It is very rare. The hospital told us that they hadn’t seen a case in years. “
According to the Bloodwise Cancer Benefit, APL can affect any age group, but is less common in children under the age of 10 and treatment, which starts immediately, usually relies on a combination of chemotherapy. and other medications.
Fox started with a drug called all trans retinoic acid (ATRA), administered orally in capsules twice a day, before starting a cycle of arsenic trioxide, an effective treatment for APL, which works by accelerating the death of leukemic cells and by encouraging normal blood cells develop properly.
“He had it intravenously for two hours a day, five days in a row, then had a break,” said Holly.
“Now, he does it twice a week for seven weeks.”
Currently, Fox is in what is known as the induction phase of treatment, which aims to destroy as many cancer cells as possible.
This will last for another seven weeks, after which it will go to the consolidation phase, when the treatment will be strengthened to stop the return of the disease.
After being hit by a series of infections, the child’s immune system is practically nonexistent, which means that his parents must be very careful about who allows him to visit him in the hospital – which, excruciatingly, means that he has been separated from Winter for the first time in his life.
[Fox and Winter] I had never spent a night apart before, so it was really difficult
“She came for their birthday, but we want to keep things as normal as possible for her,” said Holly.
“He knows his brother is in the big hospital to make it better, but I’m not sure I understand exactly what it means.
“They had never spent a night apart before, so it was really difficult.”
Since Holly and Tom, 36, who work in mobile advertising, are both self-employed, taking time off work to take care of Fox could also lead to some financial difficulties, so to help, they created a GoFundMe page and remained speechless when donations began to flood.
By setting a modest £ 500 goal, the page has now raised more than £ 6,000.
“People have been incredibly kind,” added Holly. “We have been told that the first eight weeks are crucial, so we really need to be with Fox.
“Even if we weren’t in the hospital, we wouldn’t be in the emotional space of the head to work. The generosity of people really helped reduce the pressure.
“It will mean things like the whole trip to and from Bristol, which is about two hours each way, won’t be so stressful.”
Holly has now chosen to talk about their experience to thank the kind friends and strangers they have donated, as well as the charities Bloodwise and CLIC Sargent for providing valuable support.
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He concluded: “Bloodwise does all the research and science, so without them we wouldn’t have the knowledge and treatments we need to help Fox.
“And CLIC Sargent was absolutely extraordinary.
“We are still in the phase where we don’t feel real, but having so much support around us is such a comfort.”
For more information visit CLIC Sargent and Bloodwise and to donate visit GoFundMe.