A three-year-old boy has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer after he was taken to hospital with a stomach bug.
Joseph Yeandle, from Brynamman, South Wales, had been a lively and energetic youngster who enjoyed dressing up as his favourite superheroes and playing with his older brother Liam, aged six.
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At the beginning of the year, Joseph started to lose his appetite and seemed slightly lethargic. His parents, Katy and James, put it down to being locked at home and snacking throughout the day.
In February, his older brother contracted a stomach bug from school and passed it onto Joseph. What would ordinarily have been a couple of days tucked up on the couch became an alarming and ultimately, life-saving moment for Joseph and his family.
As Joseph continued to deteriorate and his eyes became dark and sunken, the colour drained from his face and Katy took him to hospital.
‘Worst possible news’
Joseph’s aunt Emma Rees explained to NationalWorld that the nurse who observed him may have saved his life.
Emma said: “His mum knew something was wrong, not just a stomach ache, but initially doctors told her it was likely nothing to worry about.
“She went to town with the doctors and the nurse finally agreed that he should be sent to hospital to have blood work done.
“It was then that they found a lump in his stomach, it was the worst possible news our family could have received.”
Emma explained that for weeks, blood results were inconclusive but they knew it would likely be some kind of cancer. During those initial weeks, the family prepared to be told he has suffering from leukemia or lymphoma.
Emma said: “It sounds odd, but we saw the survival rate for these conditions and that there was promising treatment so we thought he might be okay.
“It was only after he was transferred to Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital in Cardiff that they diagnosed him.
“Stage four neuroblastoma, it was heartbreaking. Now he has cancer with one of the highest risks to his life, there is only a 50 per cent survival rate.”
Katy said of the diagnosis: “Finding out Joseph’s diagnosis was the hardest moment of our lives. Hearing that your child has an aggressive cancer with a poor survival rate is a feeling that can’t be described and a feeling that I wish no other family must endure.
“I have sat and stared for hours trying to think of the words to describe that pain and gut-wrenching feeling, but nothing will ever come close.
“We couldn’t understand how this was happening to Joseph, in fact the odds of him getting Neuroblastoma was harder than winning the lottery. Why did this happen to our sweet and beautiful little boy? Why?”
‘Keeping things as normal as can be’
Asked how Joseph is coping with his intense chemotherapy treatments, Emma explained that Katy and James have told Joseph and Liam that he is poorly but neither know to what extent.
She said: “For the most part, Katy is keeping things as normal as can be while making sure he is well and he knows to tell his mum if he feels poorly.
“The other day he was taken into hospital because his blood platelet levels were so low, his immune system is non-existent because of the treatment so the littlest thing floors him.
“He came to Katy and told her ‘Mummy, I want a hospital’. It's devastating for Liam and James too, the impact has been felt on everyone but the boys are so strong.
Emma described Joseph as “a real-life superhero”, adding “his resilience, the resilience of kids is incredible, we don’t want him thinking he is too sick as the power of the mind is so important to his belief that he will get better.”
Joseph will continue to undergo chemotherapy which will hopefully shrink the tumour. If successful, he will undergo major surgery in July to remove cancerous cells before he receives stem cell harvesting and transplants.
His aunt has now launched a GoFundMe which has raised over £18,000 of the £200,000 target. She said the support from the Welsh community has been overwhelming, with thousands of families putting green ribbons on their front door and cars to share their support for the campaign.
Joseph has also followed in the footsteps of his dad and grandad, lifelong Swansea City fans. The team hope to support Joseph’s ambition to ‘hulk-smash’ cancer, by fundraising.
Due to Covid restrictions, only one parent is allowed to stay at the hospital while Joseph receives treatment. As such, when he undergoes surgery in July he will be isolated for five weeks and will only be able to see his parents.
Emma said the strain on the family, and the distress this has caused the inseparable brothers, has been devastating.
The money raised will go towards providing Joseph with the best treatment possible, as well as allowing his mum, dad and brother to spend much needed time with him.
In July 2022 he will finish treatment and will hopefully be cleared of cancer or it will enter the remission stage. If his cancer has shrunk or reduced significantly, there is still a 50 per cent chance it would return. After relapse, survival rates drop to 5 per cent.
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