A 10-year-old Hulk fanatic has shown his superhero strength by returning to the classroom just months after being diagnosed with an ultra rare type of brain cancer.
The Marvel Comics-obsessed youngster has been battling Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) – an aggressive form of brain tumour mostly affecting children – since January.
His mum, 35-year-old support worker Emma Jordan, said: “It’s very surreal how normal our lives, compared to how it was earlier this year.
“I can’t say if we have beaten the cancer or not because this type of tumour is not something you beat, and there’s always a chance it will come back.
“But at the moment it seems to be stable and that’s the best news.”
Chris Gradwell, a family support worker at St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School in Cleveleys, added: “Charlie has been absolutely amazing. He was delighted to come back, and said he has missed all his friends.
“He’s been out every dinnertime playing with them.”
Charlie, who lives with his mum in Orchard Close, Thornton, first fell ill shortly after Christmas last year, when he complained about feeling sick and dizzy, and started falling over without explanation.
Emma thought her son had a winter virus, and took him to the Walk-In Centre on Whitegate Drive as a precaution.
But after hearing his symptoms, staff sent Charlie to Victoria Hospital, where a scan revealed a mass on his brain.
Within 24 hours, the youngster was tranferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.
Emma said: “He had an MRI scan on the Monday and they were really reluctant to tell me the results. They had to be sure, so took a couple of days.
“Then they took me, my dad, my mum, and my step-dad in a little room and told us. They were actually really positive, but then we got transferred to the radiologist and that’s when she said how serious it was.”
Between 20 and 30 children are diagnosed with DIPG every year and there is currently no effective treatment. Surgeons can’t operate because the tumour grows within the brainstem, which controls vital functions such as breathing and, as a result, nine in 10 youngsters die within 18 months of diagnosis.
Emma added: “She didn’t give me a time-frame but she told me the worst case scenario. She said we had to hold onto the hope that it was low-grade.”
Every day for five weeks, Charlie had to have radiotherapy treatment at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Wirral, with Emma staying in accommodation provided by staff so she could be there for her son, who she said took his ordeal ‘on the chin and with a pinch of salt’.
“He is like my hero,” she said. “The only time he got upset was when he put on a lot of weight due to the treatment, but he has been amazing – better than I would be, and probably better than most people would be.”
Charlie spent the summer recovering from his intensive treatment and, after a follow-up scan last month showed his tumour has not grown, he sat down for the start of Year Six with the rest of his classmates.
And while Emma is keen not to tempt fate by using words like ‘beaten’, she admits she didn’t expect life to be this normal just nine months down the line.
“I could not imagine him being so well at this point,” she added. “I think we are pretty much normal at the moment, but the diagnosis and the tumour is always there. If he falls over, or looks a bit tired, or if he’s a bit clumsy, that’s when I start to worry.”
Emma said the support from St Teresa’s has been ‘amazing’, and said: “They are like family.
“They have been behind us 100 per cent. A couple of teachers even came to visit when he was having his treatment.”