Alec and family support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Alec with mum Nicola and dad Glen
An inspirational Suffolk boy who doctors feared would never be well enough to attend school is getting ready to meet his new classmates next week.

The first day at school is an important date for any family but for mum Nicola Carpenter, from Stowmarket, it’s a day she feared her four-year-old son Alec would never see.

When Alec was just 4 months-old, he was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma – a rare cancer that affects children, mostly under the age of 5 years old. He was so ill doctors started his treatment straight away fearing he wouldn’t survive another two weeks.

Since Alec’s diagnosis back in 2016 the young family has been on an emotional roller-coaster with many relapse scares and doctors telling them several times to expect the worst.

But now, as thousands of children up and down the country return to school after a five-month break, proud parents Nicola (41) and her husband Glen (44), will also be taking their son for his first big school day at the Combs Ford Primary School in Stowmarket.

Thanks to life-saving research Alec is now three years in remission. Today his family is urging people to donate their unwanted clothes in support of Cancer Research UK. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Alec’s family is asking people to clear out their wardrobes to help more children and young people survive cancer by donating any pre-loved quality clothing, accessories and homeware they no longer need to their nearest TK Maxx store.

Nicola said: “Alec is in remission which is fantastic as Neuroblastoma has a high relapse rate. Cancer Research UK have put a lot of money into research for the small amount of children who are diagnosed with Neuroblastoma each year and now, as the coronavirus pandemic has hit charities so hard, they need our support to help continue with this vital work.”

Alec has missed out on lots of his childhood due to his diagnosis and treatment, including four operations, but he continues to astound his parents with his remarkable resilience and determination to succeed.

Nicola added: “Alec has been at a fantastic pre-school and his last reports were excellent, exceeding all expectations, which made me cry when I read it. We know how hard he has worked to get to where he is now. He hasn’t got the energy of the other children and he hasn’t got the same stamina but he tries his best and we are so proud of what he has achieved. He is looking forward to big school and we are so excited for him, it’s going to be quite an emotional day for all of us.”

Nicola said finding a school for Alec had been difficult because of his extra care needs but it was important that he lived as normal a life as possible, which included mainstream schooling. She added: “School is best because children that are removed from society due to illness suffer a lasting impact, it takes children until they are aged around 19 to 22 to catch up with social skills they might have missed during their school years.”

Alec, who will be monitored by doctors until he is aged 18, has had tumours discovered in his, chest, liver, stomach, spine, skin, bones and lungs. Cancer surgery has also left him with Horner Syndrome – a rare disorder which means he can’t control his body temperature on one side, along with one arm and hand weakness and a droopy eye.

Nicola continued: “People say Alec was so young he won’t remember anything but remembers everything about his treatment. A smell can trigger an emotional response or it could be something that he has seen. We have constant relapse fears where we have had to cancel holidays and things waiting for results but the latest MRI scan he had is the first one we have had where there is no change and nothing the doctors need to monitor which is fantastic news.”

More children are surviving cancer than ever before, thanks in large part to the work of Cancer Research UK. But, cancer still claims the lives of around 510 under 25s in the UK every year.

For many, the extra time spent at home during the COVID-19 outbreak has provided an opportunity to focus on de-cluttering – which can now be put to good use.

When sold in Cancer Research UK shops, each bag of items donated could raise up to £25 to help fund research into children’s and young people’s cancers.

Alec is one of 170 youngsters in the East of England who are diagnosed with cancer every year. His family know first-hand how important research is in helping to save more lives.

Nicola added: “Alec and I will be having a good clear out at home and finding clothes and items to donate to our local TK Maxx store. I hope everyone in Suffolk will get behind this vitally important campaign and turn something they no longer need into funds for such a fantastic cause.”

Patrick Keely, East of England spokesperson for Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People, said: “We’re grateful to the Carpenter family for their support during these unprecedented times. The truth is COVID-19 has slowed us down, but we will never stop.

“Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults – from the types of cancer, to the impact of treatment and the long-term side effects survivors often experience. That’s why it needs different, dedicated research which campaigns like Give Up Clothes for Good help to fund.

“We want to help more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life. So, we hope as many people as possible will help to get our life-saving research back on track by donating any quality clothes or goods at their local TK Maxx store.”

TK Maxx is the biggest corporate supporter of Cancer Research UK’s work into children’s and young people’s cancers. Since 2004, the retailer has raised more than £37m to help improve survival.

Jo Murphy, Assistant Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at TK Maxx, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to our associates and customers in Suffolk who have helped us to raise millions for research into children’s and young people’s cancers.

“We’re making every effort to ensure that people can donate safely, so we can keep transforming their pre-loved items into vital funds. We hope the local community will show their support, because their donations really could help to save lives.”

Give Up Clothes for Good is one of the UK’s longest running clothes collection campaigns. It also provides an environmental benefit through the re-use and recycling of goods.

People can donate at any TK Maxx store, all year round. Supporters can also help raise funds by wearing a gold ribbon badge – the awareness symbol of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – available from TK Maxx and Cancer Research UK stores throughout September.

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23 Sep 2020