THE desperate parents of a four-year-old boy struck down by a rare cancer have launched a £250,000 appeal to send him to America for specialist treatment.
Little Sam Shaw is fighting for his life after being diagnosed with high risk neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer that affects the nerve cells.
To increase his chance of survival by 20 per cent his parents, Christine and Carl Shaw, 41, a transport manager at Walker Steel, Blackburn need to raise the money by June, to access treatment only available in the US.
Christine said: “As a parent all you want is to protect your child and see them grow up healthy and happy.
“Sam's diagnosis has left us feeling completely helpless in the face of this terrible disease that has taken over our little boy's body.
“He is the centre of our universe and he is our cheeky little chatterbox.
“We are trying to take each day as it comes and remain positive for Sam’s sake.
“We have the ability to increase his chances of survival by 20 per cent by sending him to America.
“After hearing the diagnosis we just knew what we needed to do and the support we have received so far has been overwhelming.”
The brave youngster has just celebrated his fourth birthday while undergoing gruelling chemotherapy at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
His family have been told his cancer has spread from the main tumour in his adrenal gland near his kidneys, to his bones and bone marrow.
Sam is now facing months of gruelling treatment including 80 days of intense chemotherapy, surgery, further high dose chemotherapy, stem cell rescue and radiotherapy before the possible immunotherapy in America.
The Darwen Barnabas House nursery pupil, who loves the TV character Fireman Sam, was diagnosed on January 4 after suffering from a variety of different symptoms including pains in his legs, back and arms, night sweats and severe constipation.
Despite dozens of trips to the doctors over a nine week period, the youngster’s condition was explained away by everyday alignments including growing pains.
Then shortly after Christmas, Christine returned to her GP with Sam who was struggling to sit up straight.
Christine, 35, who works as a PA to the headteacher at Chorley’s Albany High School, said: “I just knew something was wrong. It was really distressing seeing him so poorly and not getting an explanation.
“I listed to the doctor all of the symptoms Sam had suffered in the weeks prior and he agreed with me that further tests needed to be done.
“I pushed the doctor to refer us the same day and just two days later we knew Sam had high risk neuroblastoma.
“He is such a brave little boy. He has taken everything in his stride and seems to just have accepted what is happening to him.
“As a family we have been doing our best to keep our emotions from him and make his time is hospital fun.”
Sam, who loves playing outdoors, lives in Glencoe Avenue, Hoddlesden, with his parents and grandparents Sylvia and Graham Shaw, who have moved up from Cornwall to be near their grandson.
The long term survival rate for children with high risk neuroblastoma remains at less than 40 per cent, which is around half the average survival rate for childhood cancers.
Sam’s oncologist at Manchester Children's Hospital has recommended he receives immunotherapy treatment in America.
It will help stimulate his immune system so that his own body should be able to recognise and attack the neuroblastoma if it was to return.
Christine said: “Since the diagnosis Sam has gone through so much, but at every stage he has been amazingly courageous. The doctors and nurses can't believe how brave he is.
“He hardly ever cries, he takes his medicines on his own with no fuss and he is the best 'sleeping lion' when it comes to CT scans. He is just our amazing hero.
“He has had his 40 day review and the results are encouraging.
“We are now waiting for the end of intensive chemotherapy results at 80 days and pray for more positive news.
“The support we have received so far has been amazing, if anyone wants to donate or organise an event we will be very grateful.”
To donate visit www.justgiving.com/SamShawAppeal