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Appin tot Matthew Innes’s brave fight against a rare cancer has inspired village firefighters and its community constable to get on their bikes.
This Sunday the Appin crew and police officer Stuart Johnston will by cycling round Loch Creran in their full kit to raise funds and awareness for charity Neuroblastoma UK.
The 22-month-old was given the devastating diagnosis seven months ago after doctors thought it was just an ear infection.
Tests later revealed he had cancer in every bone of his body and surgeons removed half of his liver where a tumour the size of a Coca-Cola can was growing.
So far the firefighters’ charity page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/appinfire has brought in more than £2,200 and the crew hopes people will turn out on the day of the ride, from 1pm on November 21, to give generously to buckets at the station.
Matthew’s shock illness turned mum Caroline Brown and dad Calum Innes’s world upside down.
‘He started to get really clingy. He’d never wanted to be held before, he just wanted to be playing all the time but then it changed. He wouldn’t eat, he wasn’t taking water, he stopped sleeping through the night,’ said hotel worker Carolyn, who took him to the GP got antibiotics for a suspected ear infection.
Worried and with no improvements a couple of days later, they went to A&E where hospital doctors sent them home after checking his vital signs were okay.
‘He still wasn’t getting any better so we went to the GP again. They still thought it was just an ear infection. The next day he was violently sick and we took him back to A&E. I was concerned he hadn’t been eating or drinking properly for more than a month. I kept telling them but we were told nothing was wrong,’ added Caroline.
But just as they were about to leave, a doctor came up and asked if he could feel Matthew’s tummy. Ten minutes later he returned and said an ambulance was coming to take them to the children’s hospital in Glasgow.
‘Nothing else was said. We thought he was maybe needing fluids,’ said Carolyn.
When the family arrived they were taken to the critical decisions unit where they were told Matthew’s liver and kidneys felt inflamed.
Carolyn said: ‘I thought it was because he’d not eaten or been drinking. Then they sent us for X-rays. They told us someone from the Oncology Department would come. I said to Calum that’s cancer isn’t it? I was thinking they must’ve got it wrong, then a consultant came and told us there was a mass growing in Matthew’s tummy.’
A couple of days later they were given the devastating Neuroblastoma diagnosis.
Matthew’s chemotherapy has now finished and this week the toddler and his family are back in Glasgow ready for bouts of radiotherapy. Over the next couple of weeks he will have 12-days worth of treatment at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre.
Thanks to charity Young Livers Vs Cancer, the family has been able to stay in a house near the hospital.
Carolyn said: ‘When you first get the diagnosis, it makes you go numb to everything else that is going on. The first two months you can do nothing but cry, but then you realise it’s not about you. This is about Matthew. We just need to power through this for his sake.
‘When Stuart from the fire station messaged me about the cycle challenge I couldn’t read it for five minutes because I was so emotional. I’m not from Appin but we’ve lived here for four years. The support we’ve had from the community has been incredible.
‘Neuroblastoma is such a rare and aggressive cancer so anything that can help fund more research and more awareness is amazing. The fact the fire station thought about Matthew and are doing this cycle challenge for Neuroblastoma UK brings us so much comfort. I don’t think we could ever thank them enough.’
This week scan results will show if Matthew’s tumours are still there, have shrunk, gone, or if news ones have grown, said Carolyn who has stayed in Glasgow with Matthew for the last seven months because she could not bear to come home without him.
‘To see and feel the love in Appin for Matthew made coming home with him before his radiotherapy starts even more special,’ said Carolyn.
Depending on how well he is after his first four days of radiotherapy, the family hope to be back in Appin briefly on Sunday to cheer on the cyclists.
Every week in the UK around two children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma. You can find out more at www.neuroblastoma.org.uk