Five-year-old in battle against leukemia, all clear for transplantation of life-saving stem cells



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A five-year-old boy whose battle with cancer has inspired the nation has been enlightened to have a life-saving stem cell transplant.

Oscar Saxelby-Lee faced a race against time as his aggressive form of leukemia worsened.

After his diagnosis at Christmas, Oscar received only three months to find a stem cell donor. But after an appeal from his parents, an impressive 10,000 potential donors came forward to be tested.

A record 4,855 people lined up in the rain on an open day at their school, the Pitmaston Primary in Worcester, in March.

A woman is mopped at Worcester Guild Hall to help find Oscar Saxelby-Lee, five, a stem cell donor

A woman is mopped at Worcester Guild Hall to help find Oscar Saxelby-Lee, five, a stem cell donor

Oscar Saxelby-Lee, five, who needs a stem cell donor after battling a particularly aggressive form of leukemia. He is pictured here with his parents Olivia Saxelby and Jamie Lee

Oscar Saxelby-Lee, five, who needs a stem cell donor after battling a particularly aggressive form of leukemia. He is pictured here with his parents Olivia Saxelby and Jamie Lee

DKMS, the charity that tests swabs, said its previous record for a record event was 2,200.

Last month, it was discovered that a phosphorus had been found, and tests this week showed that the young man has no cancer cells in his bone marrow after chemotherapy. This means that a stem cell transplant can now occur.

In a Facebook post, her parents Olivia Saxelby, 23, and Jamie Lee, 26, said, "You can imagine how proud we are, and most of all, how proud he is of himself. Go to my boy.

Oscar is in treatment at Children's Hospital Birmingham and his parents encouraged people to continue donating blood, since he still needs daily transfusions.

Oscar has been in chemotherapy since being diagnosed Dec. 28, but will need more aggressive treatment to overcome the disease.

His parents Olivia Saxelby and Jamie Lee of St. Johns, Worcester, were concerned when they noticed unexplained bruises on his body.

In the photo are some of the 4,800 donors queuing in the rain through the gates of Pitmaston Elementary School in Worcester last month.

In the photo are some of the 4,800 donors queuing in the rain through the gates of Pitmaston Elementary School in Worcester last month.

Oscar, in the picture before getting sick, was diagnosed with leukemia in December after his parents noticed unexplained bruising on his body

Oscar, in the picture before getting sick, was diagnosed with leukemia in December after his parents noticed unexplained bruising on his body

Mayor of Worcester Jabba Riaz cleans his mouth with two buds at the event in Worcester, where more than 1,000 people attended

Mayor of Worcester Jabba Riaz cleans his mouth with two buds at the event in Worcester, where more than 1,000 people attended

About 1,090 potential donors were wiped at Guild Hall, Worcester, in March

About 1,090 potential donors were wiped at Guild Hall, Worcester, in March

A woman smiles at Guild Hall in Worcester and shows the three buttons she used to wipe her mouth

A woman smiles at Guild Hall in Worcester and shows the three buttons she used to wipe her mouth

HOW DO BLOOD CELL TRANSPLANTS WORK?

As a treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), stem cell transplants work by replacing blood cells that are diseased or destroyed by chemotherapy.

Having a stem cell transplant means that the body can withstand higher doses of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.

During chemotherapy, while cancer cells are destroyed by drugs, healthy blood cells are also needed for the internal organs and immune system to function properly.

If too many of them are destroyed, it can be deadly so doctors must control how much chemotherapy one has – they want to destroy as many cancer cells as possible without killing a lethal amount of healthy cells.

Having a donor means that cells killed by chemotherapy can be replaced by donor stem cells – which turn into red and white blood cells once injected into the body – helping the patient to recover more quickly from strenuous therapy.

Stem cells are taken from a donor's blood sample, so they are preferable to bone marrow transplants, which should be done under general anesthesia.

Source: Cancer Research UK

ALL is a rare disease and affects only about 650 people in the UK each year, about half of whom are children.

It is a fast-growing aggressive cancer that causes the release of a large number of underdeveloped white blood cells from the diseased bone marrow.

These blood cells continue to spread and cause symptoms such as tiredness, difficulty breathing, pale skin, fever and pain in bones and joints.

Oscar had 20 blood transfusions and four weeks of chemotherapy.

Olivia Saxelby and Jamie Lee of St Johns, Worcester, have launched an appeal to find a match after Oscar's diagnosis.

They aimed to get as many people as possible to sign up for a blood stem cell donor registry as part of a campaign called "Hand in Hand for Oscar."

Olivia, 23, said: "We felt we could not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but when we looked at Oscar's insolent smile, bravery and determination, we managed to gather our strength again.

From that moment of fear and confusion, we, as family, became stronger than ever. Oscar reminded us how to fight again and how brave he is.

"Not once did he show weakness, nor did he fail to surprise us during the most difficult times, and this for us is a true warrior.

"Oscar is a fun, loving, and energetic five year old who deserves to live to the fullest extent with the other soldiers who fight against such terrible diseases.

"He need not just enjoy a normal life that a child should live, but now needs someone else to save him."

What is acute lymphoplastic leukemia?

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a type of cancer of the blood that originates from young white blood cells in the bone marrow.

There are about 810 new cases in the UK every year. In the US, ALL affects approximately 1.7 adults per 100,000.

Anyone can develop ALL, however, it mainly affects younger people.

Many of ALL symptoms are vague and flu-like, such as:

  • General weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Frequent infections
  • Easy bruising or bleeding, including nosebleeds, severe periods, and blood in the urine or stools
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Feeling full
  • Lighter skin than normal

Risks for the development of ALL include exposure to radiation, smoking, overweight and a weak immune system.

Research suggests that being breastfed and exposed to childhood infections can reduce a person's risk.

The main treatment of ALL is chemotherapy. Patients may also receive radiation therapy, steroids, or bone marrow transplants.

Source: Cancer Research UK

To join the register of stem cell donors, visit DKMS.

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