An Eastbourne couple who lost their seven-month-old baby boy to blood cancer are fighting to raise awareness of the devastating disease.
Verity and Nathan Hambrook-Skinner are at the heart of a national campaign after losing their son Toby last year. Just weeks after birth, they noticed a small bump on his head.
Verity said, “It developed in a week from a tiny bump to being covered in bumps and bruises all over. We were really fortunate because we had an amazing GP who referred us straight away.
“But talking to other parents that isn’t always the case, there’s people who have been given the run around. There’s no room for that in this disease, it’s so aggressive.
“We think it’s so important that GP surgeries are clued up on how to spot blood cancer.”
Toby was transferred to Great Ormond’s Street Hospital where he was diagnosed with a rare Leukaemia.
Despite initially responding well to treatment, things took a turn for the worse and he had to have a bone marrow transplant. Tragically, he died from a chest infection after the procedure.
His mother said, “We want more people to be more aware of blood cancer, it’s one of the cancers people don’t know much about. It’s really aggressive and it’s really hard to treat.
“We are campaigning and working to raise money for a trust for Toby, that will focus on kinder cures for children’s cancers, that’s not always the highest levels of chemotherapy.
“We are really grateful to the NHS and the nurses. They have done absolutely everything for us we can’t believe how much they tried and we were so lucky to have them looking after Toby. He was a happy baby, a happy person.”
Nathan added, “He was here for a short time but he showed us so much and completely changed us as people. He was amazingly happy despite what he was going through, he was so resilient for a baby.
“He bounced back from multiple bouts of sepsis, fought off infection after infection but in the end everything takes its toll. He was pretty special.”
The Old Town couple say they have received bereavement support from The Chestnut Tree House.
They are encouraging people to sign up to the bone marrow register and even just give blood to help.
Nathan said the experience made him sharply aware of how precious the NHS is. He said, “You don’t realise how special the NHS is. They need help and they need funding.
“The nurses are doing such long shifts and yet they do it with such compassion and care. They are really amazing people.”
They have featured in a video for the Make Blood Cancer Visible campaign, launched this week.
Running throughout September, it aims to inform, educate and increase awareness of the disease. Some shocking facts include:
- It is the 5th most common cause of cancer in the UK and claims more life each year than breast or prostate cancer
- Despite this, patients often require more visits to their GP before diagnosis, compared to solid tumour cancers. These delays in diagnosis can ultimately lead to patients being disadvantaged and experiencing poorer survival outcomes.
- One in 19 people in the UK will be diagnosed with blood cancer at some point in their lifetime, new statistics from blood cancer charity Bloodwise reveal
Visit www.makebloodcancervisible.co.uk to find out more.
Nathan and Verity have also raised more than £75,000 for their Toby Trust. To view the fundraiser, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/deartoby
Story first appeared in Eastbourne Herald, September 6, 2018.