It started with a limp. Doctors thought it was just a simple virus Jack had picked up at daycare. But then they gave his mum and dad the awful news every parent dreads

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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A mother has revealed how her healthy young son one day came home from childcare with a simple limp that led to a devastating cancer diagnosis. 

Jaimee Thompson said her son Jack was ‘like any other boundary pushing three-year-old’ and loved dolphins, the colour yellow and watching ‘old school’ Scooby Doo and The Smurfs cartoons. 

The mum, from Freshwater on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, said there had been no sign anything was wrong with Jack until the sudden limp he developed in April 2023.

Jaimee and Jack’s dad took him to doctors to have the limp and a subsequent fever looked at but were told not to be too concerned as there were no other symptoms.

‘The doctors thought it was just a virus that he picked up at daycare, so he went through a couple of rounds of antibiotics and that probably went for a couple of weeks,’ Ms Thompson told Yahoo News.

‘It was leading up to winter – there was a lot going around. He had some X-rays and doctors told us not to worry.’

The couple took Jack home but in the following weeks, despite the antibiotics, he did not improve. 

Jack (pictured left) with his mother Jaimee, brother Ted and father Trent was diagnosed with neuroblastoma

His mother said she had no clue something was wrong until Jack suddenly developed a limp

His mother said she had no clue something was wrong until Jack suddenly developed a limp

Ms Thompson said one night she heard Jack screaming from his bed and went in to ask if he had been having a nightmare but he replied ‘no, I’m hurting mummy’. 

She called an ambulance and Jack was admitted to hospital.

Ms Thomspon said just three weeks after she first noticed the limp ‘four doctors walked into our room to advise us our baby bear had stage IV cancer. Neuroblastoma’. 

‘Whilst Jack had been playing, swimming, sleeping, laughing and giving ”huggles” his nerves cells had failed to mature properly, resulting in a mandarin-sized tumour growing near his adrenal gland and kidney,’ she said on GoFundMe.

‘From there it spread to lymph nodes, bone marrow and his bones, from the top of his beautiful head down to his toes.’ 

In May 2023 Jack started what his mother said was ‘one of the most gruelling treatment protocols a child can endure’. 

Jack spent six months in hospital undergoing eight rounds of chemotherapy, an eight-hour surgery, a bone marrow transplant and 12 rounds of radiation. 

He has undergone six months of gruelling treatment in hospital including chemotherapy and radiation

He has undergone six months of gruelling treatment in hospital including chemotherapy and radiation

He is now recovering but the cancer has a 50 per cent likelihood of returning

He is now recovering but the cancer has a 50 per cent likelihood of returning

She said the ordeal left him with side effects that include the loss of fine motor skills, reduced eyesight and infertility. 

He has, however, responded well to the treatment and has been cleared of all but a few remaining cancer cells in his bone marrow.

The irrepressible toddler will now need to undergo another six months in hospital for immunotherapy treatment which aims to remove those remaining cancer cells. 

‘Despite this success, the hard truth is that Neuroblastoma has a 50 per cent relapse rate. And if Jack relapses, his chances of survival plummet to just 5 per cent,’ Ms Thompson said.

There are currently two new therapies that have been approved by the FDA in America which target Neuroblastoma – DFMO and a bivalent vaccine.

They are the standard therapy in the United States and have been shown to halve the risk of relapse but won’t be available in Australia for another two years. 

DFMO (diflouromethylornithine) works by limiting the ability of cancer cells to make the polyamines they require to grow and spread, according to the Children’s Cancer Institute.

The bivalent vaccine trains the body’s immune system to recognise and eliminate cancer cells that may be ‘lurking’ in the body after chemotherapy, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre. 

Ms Thompson has launched a GoFundMe asking for help to access ‘at least one of these drugs’.

The couple are asking for help to fund trips to the US for life-saving treatment - Jack with his brother Ted

The couple are asking for help to fund trips to the US for life-saving treatment – Jack with his brother Ted

‘Your generosity will be used to cover the cost of medication and other hospital requirements such as scans and bone marrow aspirations as well as flights to the US and accommodation whilst we are there,’ Ms Thompson wrote.

Jack will need to take the therapy for two years from mid-August requiring six visits to the US.

‘They say it takes a village to raise a child. Thank you for being part of Jack Jack’s village. We can’t do this without you,’ she said.

WHAT IS NEUROBLASTOMA?

Neuroblasts are immature nerve cells found in children that mature into nerve cells.

Neuroblastoma is a cancer that occurs in these immature nerve cells, meaning that it typically affects children under five years of age and can develop in many different parts of the body.

About 40 children a year in Australia develop the cancer.

It has a 50 per cent survival rate if aggressive but some new drug therapies appear to significantly improve that.

Most of these are not yet available in Australia. 

This type of cancer gets less than 10 per cent of children’s cancer funding. 

Source: Neuroblastoma Australia and the Garvan Institute.

SydneyCancer

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