Beckenham childhood leukaemia patient to be face of national cancer charity campaign
PUBLISHED: 14:10 14 November 2016 | UPDATED: 14:10 14 November 2016
A Beckenham school boy who recently finished three and a half years of chemotherapy treatment for childhood leukaemia is the focus of a national cancer charity's new fundraising campaign launched next week.
Andrew Berthoud, now aged seven, was three and at preschool when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in October 2012. He started at Balgowen Primary School whilst still undergoing treatment, and is now a full-time pupil.
His mum, Melody Berthoud, used daily Facebook posts throughout his treatment to keep his family and friends up to date on how he was doing.
Now Ms Berthoud’s insights into Andrew’s treatment and their side effects have been made the focus of a national campaign by the blood cancer charity Bloodwise.
Bloodwise, which changed its name from Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research last year, invests over £11 million in research into less toxic and more effective treatments for childhood leukaemia. Its winter appeal to the public and the charity’s supporters is calling for donations to continue this research.
In the letter to supporters, Ms Berthoud recalls lessons she learnt since her son’s diagnosis. The chemotherapy caused Andrew severe pain and nausea and she remembers that “I didn’t know that cutting hair short makes it harder to pick out of food when it starts falling out”. The cycles of steroids Andrew needed to take during his treatment also had a big psychological impact on him, with Melody recounting that “I didn’t know a three year old could be depressed”.
“Andrew was just three and a half when he was diagnosed,” said Ms Berthoud. “He spent the next three years and four months – almost his whole life again – going through treatment.
“Andrew took his last chemo tablet on February 20 this year. We filmed this moment that we could only dream of at the start and he spontaneously shouted, “I beat you leukaemia!” We’re so proud of him.”
“Thanks to research that Bloodwise has helped fund, now nine in 10 children survive. But this isn’t enough. One in 10 children won’t survive, and I know that research is the only way to change that. I wanted to share my story so that people know that children and families can survive blood cancer.”
In August this year she published a comprehensive account of Andrew’s treatment and her family’s experience entitled ‘We Beat Leukaemia: my family’s journey with childhood cancer’. She wrote the book to give hope to other families going through similar situations and to give medical professionals an insight into what treatment is like from a family’s point of view.
Andrew has an older sister, Clara, aged nine, who has been a big help to her mum throughout Andrew’s treatment.
“She’s pretty amazing,” says Ms Berthoud. “I think she quite enjoyed mothering him though. She’s really brave. Some weeks I would drop her to school on a Monday and then not see her for a week because I’d be at the hospital. But Clara had lots of family and friends around to support her.”
Ms Berthoud has recently become an official Ambassador for Bloodwise to raise awareness of blood cancers and the work that Bloodwise does.
“I want to raise more awareness. There are other ambassadors who will raise funds though jumping out of planes and things, but I’m not like that,” she laughs. “I’m trying to help through Andrew’s campaign and my book. I go to events and I’m very active on social media.”
Andrew’s Appeal will feature on the front page of the Bloodwise website during November and December and will be sent to around 20,000 of the charity’s supporters.
To find out more about the Appeal or to donate visit bloodwise.org.uk/winterappeal