'It's devastating' - mum of teenager diagnosed with cancer for the fourth time on family's journey
PUBLISHED: 06:35 25 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:20 25 February 2019
The mother of a 14-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with cancer for the fourth time and has lost an eye and both leg bones to the disease says his latest relapse is "devastating".
Lewis Atkins, from Dereham, suffered multiple bouts of retinoblastoma and osteosarcoma as a baby and young boy.
And the teenager, a pupil at Neatherd High School, is now preparing for yet another round of chemotherapy, after the disease reappeared in his leg last year.
His family, friends and football manager have praised him for his positivity, while a fundraising page to support his family with the costs of his illness and enable them to make special memories has raised more than £1,000.
Kelly Atkins, 41, who gave up her job as a charity worker to care for her son, said: “It’s devastating but its one of those things you have to try and be positive all the time and hope for the best.
“They did sit him down and say there’s a very slim chance they could cure him, as they’ve pretty much run out of options.
“We were told last time if we got through a year we’d be lucky and we got through five years.”
Lewis was first diagnosed with retinoblastoma at just four-and-a-half months old and endured six months of chemotherapy.
But doctors couldn’t fully tackle the disease, and Lewis’ parents took the decision to have their then three-year-old’s right eye removed.
But retinoblastoma survivors carry a high risk of developing other cancers and, just five years later, Lewis, then eight, began to complain of pain in his legs.
In 2013, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, after tests found a tumour on his left leg.
He battled through another round of chemotherapy, followed by surgery to replace his left leg bone and knee with a metal femur, meaning he had to learn to walk again.
Lewis was eventually given the all-clear, and his life began to go back to normal, until he began experiencing aches yet again.
At a check up in September last year another tumour was found on the teenager’s right leg.
His mother said: “They found a lesion and the biopsy came back at the end of November that it was sarcoma, and we started the whole process again.”
The disease had been caught early but nodules had still spread to Lewis’ lungs, and he underwent yet more surgery - leaving him with metal bones in both legs - and even more chemotherapy.
He is now preparing for another round of the treatment.
Mrs Atkins said: “We did get the good news that 95pc of the cancer cells are gone, but he’s had so much treatment over the years they’re now limited as to what they can give him.
“It’s looking positive - he might finish chemotherapy in May and he’s hoping to be back at school before the summer.”
But Lewis, who is recovering from his latest surgery, is currently in and out of hospital.
His mother added: “He came home on Wednesday and it’s hard this time because he’s older and there are more side effects. You just take it as it comes.
“He will sometimes say: ‘I’ve had enough and I don’t want it anymore,’ - but he gets on with it. It’s hard enough to watch him go through it.
“It’s heartbreaking to go on that ward and see so many children.”
And Lewis’ family, who live in Dereham, say they have been struck by the outpouring of support from the town’s residents.
Jack Cassidy, Dereham Town FC club secretary and manager of the U15s side Dereham Saints, said: “Lewis has been coaching for us as a junior for years. We set up the U15s team and he’s our goalkeeper.
“They’re such a lovely, strong family. People don’t realise he’s got through this due to sheer guts.
“His dad rang and let us know the tumour was back.
Mr Cassidy, 51, added: “Rob, his stepdad, had to sell his car to fund going to Addenbrookes and they struggled to pay the mortgage.
“We’re trying to help by doing different events, and we’re all trying to back the family.”
Mrs Atkins said: “We just want to thank everyone for all their support. The football club have been fantastic.
“The money has helped us a great deal with fuel costs, and being at the hospital - we are so grateful.”
Help Delete Cancer FC to hold charity match in support of Lewis
A Dereham charity football team, supported by Norwich City’s Todd Cantwell, are aiming to raise £2,000 to help Lewis Atkin’s family.
Help Delete Cancer FC founder Harry Cottenden, 19, said: “A few members of my family have cancer and I’ve lost my nan to it, which was what inspired me to set it up.
Mr Cottenden, who knew Lewis from school, said: “It just doesn’t seem real. Some people lose their battle once - to face it four times shows how strong he is.
“His positivity keeps him going - he’s always smiling.”
The team are planning a celebrity matchday in May, for Chelsea FC fan Lewis, and hope to raise £2,000 to fund a holiday to France or Spain for the whole family.
The two games will be held at Fakenham Town FC on Saturday, May 18, with Norwich City players, actors and football stars to appear.
There will also be raffles, tombolas, and face painting, with tickets sold on the day priced at £5 for adults and £2.50 for kids.