A mum-of-eight has said she is desperate to make holiday ‘memories’ with her son after he was given a 50% chance of surviving cancer last year.
Roxanne Pannell said that while her four-year-old son George appears to be on the mend, she is terrified he could relapse.
George’s ordeal began in June last year when he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma just hours after his father received the all-clear from cancer.
After more than a year of gruelling treatments, Roxanne and her husband are appealing for help to buy a tent and a trailer to take the family on holiday.
Roxanne, 36, from Rustington, West Sussex, told The Mirror: “We want to make as many memories as we can. We want to watch George climbing trees and playing football.
“Touch wood we are almost at the end of George’s cancer fight now but God forbid it should go the other way we want to be able to make as many memories as we can.
“At the moment George is showing no visible signs of cancer. Although the outlook is good we are very much tightrope-walking with it.”
Only 67 per cent of patients with neuroblastoma survive more than five years, making it one of the deadliest childhood cancers.
Roxanne added that there is a high risk of relapse within the first two years of being diagnosed – and children are not classed as in remission unless they have had no cancerous cells in their body for five years.
The mum said: “We know some children do relapse and their outlook decreases a lot. Some don’t even have a five per cent chance of making it.”
The mum said she and her husband decided to raise money for a tent instead of a big holiday because they want to make several trips together.
She told The Mirror: “We would like to be able to go around England with our tent and go to different campsites. In a year or two once Covid is settled we would like to go abroad with the tent.
“We’d like George to spend time with all of his siblings. George is really close to them all. It seems heartless to say we are going off on a weekend but there’s not enough space for you one of the siblings so they can’t come.”
The family have already managed to enjoy a couple of camping holidays by renting tents with some of the money left over from another fundraiser set up to cover the costs of George’s treatment.
The youngster was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma on June 12 last year, just hours after his dad received the all-clear.
His dad Darren, 34, a former recruitment officer for a construction firm, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2019.
He underwent surgery to remove his bowel and also had chemotherapy before receiving the phone call informing him he was cancer-free.
The family’s joy was crushed just hours later when they received the news about George, who was just two-years-old at the time.
Roxanne said: “A couple of hours later Southampton called and said George had neuroblastoma.
“It still makes me cry now. It’s the worst thing ever because it’s just out of your control.
“If your kid falls over and cuts their knee you can wash it and put a plaster on – but if your kid gets cancer you just don’t know.”
George was immediately admitted to hospital and underwent a gruelling series of treatments, including eight rounds of intense chemotherapy followed by another four chemo treatments and immunotherapy.
The youngster received morphine before starting his treatment, however he still suffered intense pain.
Roxanne added: “One night he was screaming non-stop for six hours. We could hear him on the other end of the ward screaming in pain.
“He was screaming ‘mummy, mummy, mummy help me’. It was awful.”
His ordeal also saw surgeons removing a tumour the size of an adult hand from above his left kidney.
He then had stem cells removed from his body and replaced with new ones, before undergoing radiotherapy and immunotherapy.
George still has two months to go before his treatment is completely over but he now appears to be cancer-free.
Kind-hearted donors have already given the family more than £6,000 to help them cover the costs of George’s treatment, such as paying for fuel to reach the hospital.
Roxanne and Darren, who care for their son at home, are now asking strangers to donate £2,500 to help them buy a tent and trailer.
Darren was put on furlough last year and could not return to his job due to his responsibilities with George.
He is the only one in the family with a driving licence and he needed the freedom to take George to the hospital whenever it was necessary.
The family are now surviving on Universal Credit and Disability Living Allowance.