Heartbroken family appeals for help to save nine-year-old son who has months to live
PUBLISHED: 12:09 24 April 2019 | UPDATED: 12:30 24 April 2019
A heartbroken family has issued an appeal for help as they fight to fund vital treatment for their nine-year-old son, who has been given 10 months to live.
Charlie Stephenson, from Martham, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour in February after undergoing tests on what his parents thought was a lazy eye.
The condition, called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), affects people's eyesight, mobility and communication as the tumour grows.
In order to prolong Charlie's life, his parents, Soeli and Tony Stephenson, are hoping to raise £125,000 for a procedure which is not available on the NHS.
In the UK, a private children's hospital in London is using a type of chemotherapy to treat children with the rare form of cancer.
Kayleigh Oliver, 33, a close family friend, has set up a JustGiving page, which has raised more than £56,000 since it was launched last month.
Miss Oliver, who also lives in Martham, said she is determined to do everything she can to support the family.
“They were absolutely devastated when they were told the news about him having the brain tumour,” she said.
“Soeli wanted to sell their house to help pay for the treatment so I told her we would do as much as we could to support them.”
The 33-year-old described Charlie as a caring and thoughtful young boy who loves animals.
DIPG typically affects children between the ages of four and 12, and accounts for roughly 10pc to 15pc of all brain tumours in children.
A number of fundraising events have already taken place across the last couple of months as the Martham community rallies.
Fundraising efforts have included a 140-mile cycling challenge, a 20-mile walk and the campaign Turn Martham Red for Charlie, which has seen businesses donate red items to be sold at auctions.
Miss Oliver said the family had been overwhelmed with the support they had received.
She said: “Every time I see them to tell them how much we have raised they cannot believe it.
“They are very emotional but so thankful for all the help they are getting.”
Charlie has had 13 sessions of radiotherapy across three weeks and is now on a course of steroids to ease the symptoms which include slurred speech and difficulties with walking.
The next event is an auction on Friday, April 26, at the Kings Arms pub in Martham which begins at 7.30pm.