Cancer patient, 7, stars as king in school nativity after nurse works
'Christmas miracle' to move surgery scheduled for same day Finn, 7, underwent 18 months of gruelling cancer treatment
He was desperate to star in his school's nativity play but surgery to take out a feeding tube was scheduled for the same dayThe family's Macmillan cancer nurse Sarah stepped in and had the operation rearrangedShe also went in to speak to Finn's primary school after his brother was bullied because Finn had lost his hair
Mother described Sarah as 'our Christmas miracle'. Finn is now in remission
13:39 GMT, 24 December 2012
What a star! Finn prepares for his royal entrance as one of the three wise men
For most seven-year-olds, performing in the school nativity play is something to take for granted.
Not so for cancer patient Finn Middleton from Flixton in Greater Manchester.
He was desperate to follow in his older brother's footsteps and play one of the three wise men in his school's Christmas play. He had been too ill to take part last year but was now all set for his starring role.
However, his dream was almost shattered when surgery was scheduled for the day of the performance.
It was only the quick intervention of the child's Macmillan paediatric nurse, Sarah Murphy that saved the day.
Finn was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer which develops from muscle tissue, in 2011, when he was five-years-old.
mother, Jo Middleton, 41, was helping him to get ready for school in
January 2011 when she noticed that his eye had closed up and that he was
experiencing shooting pains in his face.
Worried that something could be seriously wrong she rushed him straight to hospital. He was immediately sent for tests while doctors tried to establish what was wrong with him.
CT scan revealed that he did not have a brain tumour, however, a few
weeks later a second CT scan was carried out and his parents, Jo and
Paul, were given the devastating news that he had rhabdomyosarcoma, a
cancer which affects less than 60 children in the UK each year.
Finn underwent 18 months of gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy and had to miss two years of school.
Mrs Middleton told Mail Online: ‘I didn’t think that anything could be tougher than being told my child had cancer. But, trying to explain to my little boy what was happening to him proved to be tougher still.
‘We told him he had nasty germs in his head, and he needed to take “magic medicine” to make it go away.
‘Every day we were forced to watch our little boy in pain and, as the treatment took its toll, it almost broke us.’
Support: Finn with Sarah, the Macmillian paediatric nurse described as 'our Christmas miracle' by the Middleton family
Jo and Paul with their sons Finn (left) and Jacob: They are looking forward to a cancer-free Christmas after Finn's last two scans came back clear
She added: ‘He had eight weeks of radiotherapy which was horrific. He was so good at getting into the hospital but was terrified of the radiotherapy as he has to be screwed to the table by his head.
Rhabdomyosarcoma: A cancer that affects just 60 children a year
A cancerous tumour of the muscles that are attached to the bones.
They can grow in any part of the body but are most common in the head, neck, bladder and testes.
Symptoms of head and neck tumours include swelling of the eye and discharge from the nose.
Symptoms of bladder tumours include blood in the urine and difficulty passing urine.
Treatment depends on the location and size of the tumours but usually include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Regular check-ups are needed once the child is in remission.
The cause is unknown.
‘He used to play hide and seek when he was in the radiotherapy room and would kick his feet, screaming and terrified. He could only move his feet. It was heart breaking.’
Not only was Finn suffering but his brother, Jacob, 10, was also feeling the effects of the cancer.
Jacob became the target of school bullies and was picked on about Finn’s hair failing out.
The family hit rock bottom as Finn underwent treatment and Jacob came home from school in tears each day.
Mrs Middleton said: ‘Then we were introduced to Sarah, a Macmillan nurse, and bit by bit our lives started to get better.
‘Sarah went to speak to the school to encourage them to think that the cancer affected both brothers. The teachers also spoke to their classes about the situation.’
Now, 18 months later, Finn is on the
road to recovery and was delighted to be offered the role of one of the
kings in the nativity play.
disaster almost struck for the budding actor when surgery to remove his
feeding tube was scheduled for the day of the play.
Budding actor: Finn (in blue) wore the same costume his big brother Jacob had worn in a previous year
Recovering: Jo (left) said watching her son Finn in pain almost broke her and her husband
On hearing the news Mrs Middleton immediately called Sarah, who works at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, who was able to rearrange the surgery.
As a result, Finn was able to take part in the play wearing the costume his brother had worn.
His mother said: ‘He was poorly last year so missed being in the play. He was desperate to be in it this year as his brother was in it before and it was still the same costume.
‘He loved it so much he has since joined a drama group and a street dance class.’
Finn has now had two clear scans and there is no evidence of the cancer in his body. He will continue to have scans every three months to make sure the cancer has not returned.
Mrs Middleton said: ‘Watching Finn on that stage for the play was the proudest moment of our lives and without Sarah it wouldn’t have been possible – she really was a Christmas miracle.’
For more information about Macmillan Cancer Support visit www.macmillan.org.uk