Mother's heartbreak after losing one child to be told other son had leukaemia
A mother from Staffordshire has spoken of her heartbreak after seeing one son die and his twin brother struck down by serious illness just two weeks later.
Julie Parton had seen her son Ben lose his battle with a brain tumour, only for his twin Jack to be diagnosed with leukaemia just two weeks after laying Ben to rest.
The troubles for the Cannock family began when the boys were studying for their SATs at the end of March 2019 and 11-year-old Ben began to feel sick and suffer numerous health problems.
Several trips to hospital seemed to reveal gastroenteritis, but it was only after Ben collapsed one day when getting out of bed that Julie discovered what was wrong with him.
The 51-year-old said: "It wasn’t long before he had a CT scan and were told given the devastating news that Ben had a brain tumour.
"We were immediately transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital where a neurosurgeon was waiting for us.
"Ben was immediately prescribed steroids and was in surgery within 24 hours, and it was then we were told the brain tumour type and the bleak prognosis."
Ben had been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive type of brain tumour, and despite undergoing surgery and treatment, died in December at the age of 12.
For Julie and her family, a heartbreaking time was to become even worse after Ben's twin Jack started to suffer tiredness, back pain and sickness after Ben's funeral.
She said: "His symptoms were put down to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which seemed feasible given what we had all been through.
"During Ben’s many tests, it had been discovered that he had a genetic disorder which meant his TP53 gene, a tumour suppressor, was faulty.
"And it was during screening to see if Jack was similarly affected that the alarm bells started to ring."
The tests had shown that Jack was suffering from leukaemia, meaning the family had to face another cancer battle just two weeks after laying Ben to rest.
Julie said it was almost impossible to describe how horrendous the last year had been for her and her family.
She said: "Having gone through everything with Ben and, just as we were grieving his loss, it was a hammer blow to find out only two weeks after his funeral that Jack was also fighting cancer.
"Although it seems wrong to say this, it was a relief to discover that Jack had leukaemia rather than brain cancer.
"Thanks to the investment in research, Jack and other leukaemia patients now have hope of a cure, but Ben was not so lucky, he never really stood a chance."
Since his diagnosis in January, Jack has been having treatment at Birmingham Children’s Hospital where Ben was also treated.
He is currently cancer free, although will continue his chemotherapy for two-and-a-half years to ensure the disease doesn’t come back.
Julie said: "All things considered, Jack is doing well, although some days are incredibly tough.
"He misses Ben so much and would give anything for them to be on PlayStation together."
Julie is now campaigning with the charity Brain Tumour Research and is urging people to make a difference by signing a petition to increase the national investment into brain tumour research to £35 million a year.
To find out more about Brain Tumour Research, go to braintumourresearch.org