A 10-year-old brain tumour patient, who became a superhero after medics turned his radiotherapy mask into an Iron Man one, is fighting cancer for a second time.
Jude Upton was diagnosed with a brain tumour after a trip to the opticians on his 8th birthday in March 2020.
He had been suffering from a loss of balance, sickness in the mornings, constant headaches, tiredness, a loss of appetite and changes in his personality including becoming more introverted.
The youngster from Milton Keynes underwent a craniotomy - surgery to expose the brain - followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy and enjoyed months of stable scans before finding out earlier this year that his cancer had returned.
“Thankfully the optician found that Jude’s optic nerve was swollen and referred him to the eye clinic, where they did a CT scan and found a tumour the size of a plum in the back of his head,” said Jude’s mum, Katie Jefcut.
“I was completely baffled and couldn’t take in what they were saying.”
Jude was transferred by ambulance to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford where further investigations revealed his cancer had already started to spread to other areas of his body.
He underwent a nine-hour craniotomy after which he lost feeling in the right-hand side of his body and had to work hard to regain his strength before continuing with his treatment.
Ms Jefcut, who was speaking at the start of Brain Cancer Awareness Month, said: “He was so scared that he had to be sedated every day for six weeks, but the staff helped by making him an Iron Man radiotherapy mask, which was really kind because he’s a huge Marvel fan and loves his superheroes.
"He had 45 minutes of radiation on his head and spine each time and hated every minute of it.”
Jude had a further six cycles of chemo, after which his tumour remained stable. But in March this year, further growth was detected. He has now completed two more chemo cycles and is awaiting his next scan.
His mother said: “It’s all been a complete nightmare but Jude’s such a strong boy and is getting through it like an absolute warrior. I don’t know where he gets his strength from sometimes. It’s horrible thinking about everything he has had to go through.”
Jude has now been accepted onto a MEMMAT trial at the Royal Marsden, which uses antiangiogenic therapy to treat children with recurrent medulloblastoma.
His mum has also arranged for samples from his biopsy to be sent to a company in Greece which will do in-depth tests on the DNA cells of his tumour to identify what is causing them to grow.
The problem, though, is that it is expensive, which has led to a crowdfunding page being set up.
Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “It’s heart-breaking hearing about desperate families seeking life-extending treatment overseas because the same isn’t available here in the UK.
"This needs to change. Brain tumours kill more children than leukaemia and any other cancer yet, historically, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease."
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