Two schoolboys treated at Addenbrooke’s Hospital for cancer teach their family and friends how to cope with isolation during the coronavirus lockdown.
Best buddies Oliver Doughty (above) and Lucas Newton (below), both aged 12, were forced apart by cancer because their chemotherapy treatment left them prone to infection. Now the lifelong friends, who still can’t meet up because of the coronavirus lockdown, have come together to support Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life at Home challenge.
Oliver and Lucas, from Bury St Edmunds, already know what it’s like to live in isolation having gone through gruelling cancer treatment which often left them both house-bound. Oliver, who is half-way through a three-year treatment plan under the care of his consultant at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2018, and Lucas, who has just recently been given the all clear, with Burkitt Lymphoma in 2019.
The pals, who live in the same village, go to the same school and play in the same football team, supported each other during their chemotherapy treatment and even compared which drugs made them feel sick and which they felt were ok. Although Oliver still has some way to go with his treatment and is not due to finish until April next year, both boys were recently given the go-ahead to meet up again until coronavirus struck and scuppered their reunion plans.
Oliver’s dad, Chris, who works as a prison officer, said: “Oliver and Lucas have been through so much together.
"They have already endured isolation because of their cancer treatment and spent months apart -which must have been so difficult for them at their age when a large part of your life is about hanging out with your best buddy. Just as they were about to meet up they have been forced into separation yet again because of the coronavirus. It’s heart-breaking to see such close friends still apart after the difficult and long journey they have both gone through.”
The boys are determined to use their own experience to help their friends and family cope being home alone during the lockdown. The football crazy friends keep in touch whenever they can and regularly speak on the phone and use social media to update each other on what they are doing.
And now thanks to their dads, Chris and Scott, the two boys can still play keepie uppie with each other. To help keep the boys in touch and have some fun while in isolation, the dads recently arranged and filmed a virtual game of keepie uppie with the boys passing the ball to each other through home video.
Oliver, who has been practicing his football skills in his back garden during lockdown, said: “Lucas is my best friend, we have known each other for ages, we play in the same football team and, since we both got diagnosed, we have become even closer. Isolation is difficult but you just have to keep busy, learn something new, like another language. I go into the garden and play football a lot, I’ve been practising and I have reached 100 and it’s good to know that Lucas is also doing the same in his garden.
Lucas said: “Oliver is my best friend, he knew what was happening when I went through cancer and he was someone I could talk to about things that no one else understood.
"It was bad that we both had cancer but at least we went through it together and helped each other. If it wasn’t for coronavirus we would be playing football together and hopefully we can do so again soon. The best advice for isolation is just to keep yourself busy, do anything to stop yourself getting bored, you have just got to find something to do and make sure you do it.”
Chris added: “The boys have coped amazingly well and are still the best of friends -nothing will break the strong bond between them, not cancer or coronavirus. The way they have coped is a lesson for all of us, especially in this current climate. We are all in isolation because of coronavirus and it’s only now that you really get to appreciate how difficult if must have been for the boys being apart for so long. They didn’t complain, they just got on with it and, if they can do it, then we can do it too and stay in isolation. Oliver and Lucas have done so well and they know this is just a moment in their lives and it will pass by. It’s amazing just what can be achieved through friendship and loyalty.”
Lucas’ father, Scott, who is also a prison officer, said: “We are all so very proud of them both. Lucas and Oliver are friends for life. When both boys were diagnosed with cancer it left us all in complete shock. For it to happen to two lads who have been best mates for years is beyond words. When Lucas got ill, there we were in the same hospital with Oli next to him. They used to talk about their treatment and help each other which was fantastic but also quite shocking when you hear your 12-year-old son and his best friend talking about cancer as if it was normal, it’s not something any parent wants to hear.”
Oliver, a Man City fan, and Lucas, a Spurs fan, remain the best of friends in lockdown and are sharing their tips on how to exercise and keep fit in the garden, while also coping with being alone during isolation as they prepare for their own garden Cancer Research UK Home challenge.
Organisers Cancer Research UK have postponed or cancelled Race For Life events for this spring and summer to protect the country’s health during the coronavirus outbreak – and this includes the Cambridge RFL on Sunday 5 July which can no longer go ahead.
As the nation remains on lockdown, undeterred women and men are vowing to carry on and complete a Race for Life at Home challenge on their own in local countryside, neighbourhoods, gardens and behind their front doors.
Thanks to the generosity of people across Cambridge, Race for Life participants have supported vital research to develop gentler and more effective treatments for cancer – a disease that will affect one-in-two people in the UK at some stage in their lives.
Many of the scientists and researchers funded by Cancer Research UK are currently being redeployed to help in the fight against Covid-19, including assisting with testing. By helping to beat coronavirus, the charity can lessen the impact it is having on the care of cancer patients.
Paediatric Cancer Programme and consultants at Addenbrooke’s Hospital said: “The money raised by CRUK will help us make kinder and safer treatments for children like Oliver and Lucas. Cancers in children are different to cancers in adults and often have lifelong consequences.
“It was a pleasure to look after Lucas and Oliver during their treatment at Addenbrooke’s but research is vital in helping us improve the way we can tackle these diseases in children and young people.”
Dr Amos Burke is the UK lead for a recently completed study funded by Cancer Research UK, that set a new international standard for high risk Burkitt Lymphoma treatment.
People can visit raceforlife.org and sign up free for ideas on how they can create their own Race for Life at Home challenge. And the Cancer Research UK Race for Life Facebook page will help people feel energised with weekly live workout sessions. Organisers are also inviting participants to join the Race for Life at Home community by sharing photos and videos on social media using the hashtag, #RaceForLifeAtHome.