Nottingham family discovers 'fussy' toddler had high-risk tumour growing in his abdomen

Archer was just two years old when he began suffering with intense stomach pain Credit: BPM Media

A four-year-old boy has been diagnosed with high-risk cancer after suffering intense stomach pain.

Archer Crawford-Speakman was taken to A&E after a lump appeared on the side of his abdomen, which turned out to be a tumour.

Mum Jade, 29, first took Archer, now four, to the GP in mid-December 2021 when a lump popped out of his abdomen.

After the toddler had been lying awake in pain all night two weeks later, she decided to take him to A&E where doctors first suspected Archer could have a kidney issue.

Following a series of tests, mum Jade and dad Adam were told the sad news that Archer, who was just two years old at the time, had high-risk neuroblastoma - a cancer that starts in certain very early forms of nerve cells.

"I had a feeling before going in that was what it's going to be but obviously nothing prepares you for being told that your child's got cancer," Jade said.

"Every parent’s worst nightmare is hearing that your child has cancer, and nothing prepares you for hearing the words 'we estimate your son has two weeks to live.'

"There were little things that in hindsight are all symptoms but we just put them down to him being a toddler during the pandemic.

"So he was quite clingy with me, and he'd take one bite of something and then say that's enough.

"We thought he was just being a fussy toddler, but it was actually just that the tumour had pushed everything over so far that he couldn't stomach much. They were things at first we just put down to him being a toddler, but it wasn't until the tumour popped out that we knew it was something more serious."

Archer started chemotherapy at Queen's Medical Centre on 21 January 2022 and did three rounds of treatment for 10 days, but then spent eight days in ICU. He then underwent second-line chemotherapy.

He was then transferred to Sheffield Children's Hospital to begin a high dose of chemotherapy and underwent a stem-cell transplant. In August of that year, Archer had surgery to remove the tumour as well as one of his kidneys and have a feeding tube added.

Archer spent four months in the ICU and was discharged on December 22 last year.

The youngster is now awaiting his end-of-treatment scans to find out if he is cancer free or if a new plan needs to be put in place, but mum Jade says cancer will always be a part of the family's life due to the fear of relapse.

Archer has been able to spend more time at home in 2023, and his health has been improving.

"We've been at home a lot this year and he's like a completely different child," added Jade.

"If you couldn't see his hickman line and feeding tube you wouldn't know he'd been poorly. When the hospital staff see him that haven't seen him for six months, they can't believe it's the same child.

"Archer has been through so much and we’re incredibly proud of how strong he’s been and the recovery he has made. We now have plans in place for him to begin reception in September and we also have two caravan holidays planned so we can make up for missed time and memories as a family of five.

"We’re sharing our story in the hope that it raises awareness and the understanding of childhood cancer, and highlights the importance of new scientific research to help beat this devastating disease."

What is Neuroblastoma?

Neuroblastoma is a cancer of specialised nerve cells, called neural crest cells, which are involved in the development of the nervous system and other tissues.

It mostly affects babies and children under the age of five, and around 100 children per year are diagnosed in the UK.

Survival rates for children’s cancers are improving. Fifty years ago, three-quarters of children diagnosed with cancer did not survive; today more than eight in 10 children diagnosed with cancer in the UK survive.

However, around 4,200 children and young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK, and cancer is one of the leading causes of death for young people.

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