Little Joel’s fight for life

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A BRAVE little boy from Cawston Grange is facing the fight of his young life.

Joel Richards, four, has been diagnosed with a rare aggressive brain tumour.

He has just had surgery to remove a brain tumour and is now facing a minimum of 15 months chemotherapy and sessions of radiotherapy.

Joel’s parents Lloyd and Karen, of Durrell Drive, said receiving the blow is every parent’s worst nightmare.

“When we heard it was cancer our world fell apart,” said Karen.

“It will never be the same again. Our lives have changed forever.”

Their son’s symptoms started five weeks’ ago with a high temperature and crushing headaches throughout the night.

They took him to the doctors thinking he had a virus.

Karen added: “He got sick and started walking with a stumble and his head was really stiff.”

The couple said they desperately wanted to be told they were being over protective parents.

“Joel had an operation to remove the tumour on February 24 at Birmingham Children’s Hospital,” said Karen.

“It lasted from 9am until 4pm. It was a very surreal day. All we could do was wait while Joel had a critical operation, which I suppose was life or death.”

Joel woke from the operation insisting he walked himself to the toilet.

His mum said: “That’s Joel all over, independent and determined.

“Naively I thought that would be it because they had got all the cancer. There will be years and years of follow up tests and we don’t know what the long term effects will be of the treatment. The future is very uncertain, I think that’s the hardest big.”

The family said support has been overwhelming and they would like to thank everybody.

“People talk of broken Britain,” said Karen.

“This experience has restored my faith in human nature.”

Joel, a pupil at Bilton Infant School, has a medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumour which arises from nerve cells.

Lloyd said: “There is no known cause for the tumour and only 80 cases are diagnosed each year in the UK.

“The medulloblastoma develops in the cerebellum, the part of the brain at the back of the head, responsible for balance and co-ordination.”

The medulloblastoma can spread via the cerebrospinal fluid, which is why Joel has to return to hospital for a lumbar puncture soon to ascertain whether or not the cancer cells have spread.

His parents said he has been ‘amazing’ throughout his treatment.

Karen said: “Bryn has been brilliant too.

“We have to be strong for the boys, we save our tears until after bedtime.”

A community fun day has been organised to support the family of the Bilton Infant School pupil.

It takes place on March 24 and is being co-ordinated by Gordon and Kirsty Burcham from the G Force Martial Arts Centre in Wood Street, Rugby.

Gordon said: “Joel’s such a happy, smiley boy that he deserves to have a day that’s just for him. I want the people of Rugby to draw together and show real community spirit for this event.”

Gordon, who teaches children at the centre, is appealing for people to come forward to help.

“Joel loves The Beatles so it would be great to have a tribute band on the day,” he said.

“We want to do whatever we can to make Joel happy.”

Kirsty said there’s something for everyone at the fun day,

“There’s pony rides, a petting area, bouncy castle, glitter tattoos, karaoke, makeovers for the girls, cake stands and refreshments, massages, all sorts of things,” she said. “We are not charging admission but there will be a suggest donation for each attraction.”

There will also be martial arts workshops, games, raffles, auctions, Disney characters, balloon modelling, face-painting as well as a framed certified 2010 world cup shirt worn and signed by Wayne Rooney.

All proceeds will go to Joel and his family.

“They can use it for whatever they want,” added Kirsty. “No parent can ever imagine ever being in that situation, especially as they have another son, Bryn, who is eight.”

She added: “We hope to get lots of support for a very worthwhile cause.”

The fun day takes place at 180 Wood Street from 10am - 3pm.

“We’re hoping for nice weather but we have got a big undercover bit.”

If you would like to help, telephone 07976 834 887.