Wednesday, 17 Jul 2024

Boy, 9, gets devastating rare cancer diagnosis after limping during football

Parents of a nine-year-old received devastating news after he began limping while playing football.

Harry’s parents, Andy Mills and Nicola Smith, thought he had a football injury when he heard his leg “make a noise” and was in pain in April.

They gave him a walking stick to get around and had some physiotherapy sessions for suspected muscle damage. But in June the pain returned and the avid Liverpool fan started limping again.

Andy, 53, told the Liverpool Echo: “He was walking fine so we had him back playing football and cricket until the end of May or June when he started limping again. I felt awful because I thought I was pushing him too soon, he stopped again and I spoke to a surgeon who helped me with my knee last year.

“He took an X-ray and said he could see a crack on the bone so he wanted to do an MRI. A few hours later, we got a call to say they thought it was a tumour and the images were sent to NHS experts.”

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A biopsy diagnosed Harry with undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. The news broke the family.

Andy said: “It was when the doctors said ‘if we can treat your son’ that it really hit home. It was a pretty horrendous thing to hear. We spent the next two weeks not knowing if our son could be treated. You see such sad stories on the TV and think ‘bless that family’, you never think it will be you.

“Harry started chemotherapy in mid-August and has now had around four sessions. He’s in hospital a number of times a week and life has just completely changed for us. It’s very tiring going to and from the hospital but Harry never complains about it and just goes through it.”

Liverpool Football Club heard about the diagnosis and got in touch with the family. Harry was incited to watch the Merseyside and meet his favourite player Virgil van Dijk.

Andy said: “After the match we were in the Melwood Lounge, where the players’ friends and family go. When Virgil walked in everyone stopped and turned around.

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“A man said to us ‘he never comes in here, it must be special’ and he came over to speak to Harry, gave him a signed shirt and his captain’s armband. He said ‘anything we can do for you’ when he was speaking to Harry, it was just brilliant.”

Harry will undergo an invasive surgery to remove cancer-affected bone and muscle in his leg in November, just days after his 10th birthday.

Andy said: “An implant will be inserted into Harry’s leg to substitute the removed bone and muscle. Every six months it will need to be expanded with magnets, to keep up with Harry’s growth.

“The implant will last about five years and will then need replacing, so he’ll be in and out of hospital for the rest of his life. Harry has always been a big fan of sports and played football, cricket and rugby. It’s likely that he’ll never be able to play competitively as his leg muscle will never be as big as it needs to be, so he’ll be restricted.”

The family are raising money for Young Lives vs Cancer, a charity which helped them come to terms with Harry’s diagnosis. A JustGiving page has already raised £31,000 after 12 of Harry’s classmates shaved their hair in solidarity with him.

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