The devastated parents of a little boy they lost to a rare form of cancer have warned other parents to be vigilant when their children complain of aches and pains.
Joanne Hedley and Peter Hayes, from Tydsley, Greater Manchester are raising awareness about neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer that mostly attacks children, after their son Reggie, 4, tragically died following a battle with the disease.
His parents became concerned when the youngster began complaining of a poorly stomach and fever while at nursery last year.
Stomach issues are the main symptom of the disease, but it can also produce high temperatures, irritability and bone pain.
The heartbroken parents want to make sure other mums and dads don’t overlook their kids’ aches as a “tummy bug”, and fail to get them checked out.
After being admitted to hospital in November last year, It took several weeks of tests before doctors eventually told Joanne and Peter that Reggie had developed a tumour.
Consultants reassured the family that Reggie’s stage three prognosis, which means there is a possibility or remission, had brought chances back to being “in his favour”.
The four-year-old went through brutal courses of chemo and radiotherapy, but had finished treatment by June 24, and his parents were beginning to make plans for him to start “living his life” again.
Within weeks Reggie was feeling unwell and back in hospital, where doctors broke it to the family that the cancer had returned.
This time, consultants told Reggie’s parents there was nothing they could do as the cancer was spreading through his organs.
Just ten days later the youngster died.
“It was devastating,” Joanne said.
“We had been planning holidays and for Reggie going to school in September. He was so excited. We thought he could finally start living his life.
“Up until they told us there was nothing more they could do, we still thought he would bounce back because he had done so well.
“Reggie was amazing through it all. He didn’t let anything faze him. He took it all his stride.”
Since his death, Reggie’s parents have decided to raise awareness of neuroblastoma, which is mostly found in young children and babies, to help other mums and dads to notice its unique symptoms early.
Joanne said the cancer is easy to overlook and often goes undiagnosed for a long period of time.
“We were completely blinded. We had no clue whatsoever about it,’ she explained.
“We just thought he had a poorly tummy and would get some paracetamol and be sent home.
“We want to raise as much as awareness so people don’t think ‘it’s just a tummy bug’.”
She remembers son Reggie as “such a happy little boy” who was “always dancing and laughing”.
“He loved life and never let anything get him down,” she said.
“If he was not playing out and dancing around the kitchen, he was the king of chill.
“He loved to put a film on and curl up on the bed.”
Shortly before Reggie died, Joanne gave birth to his little brother, Vinnie, who was just ten weeks old when his big sibling passed.
“Reggie absolutely loved him,” said Joanne.
“He was made up that he was having a little brother. He loved to help bath and dress him. He was such a caring, loving little boy.
“He would have made the best big brother.”
Reggie’s funeral on Monday attracted crowds of mourners, who lined the pavements of Tyldesley to bid him a final goodbye.
Joanne, who works as a beauty therapist, said the community’s response has been “amazing”.
“There were so many people stood all along the route,” she said.
“I could not even look up in the car.
“It was lovely to see and we just can’t thank people enough for the support they have given to us.
“Everyone has been amazing.
“So many people have followed Reggie’s story and are devastated.
“We just can’t believe all of the love for our little boy.
“It’s nice to know he brought a smile to so many people’s faces.”
A fundraising page has been set up to support Reggie’s family with funeral costs.