Video/Gallery: Mum spotted three-year-old Zack Nicholls’ cancer by chance after he fell out of bed
- Credit: Lucy Taylor
Little Zack Nicholls is a toddler full of energy with a big smile and an infectious giggle.
But the brave three-year-old is fighting Ewing’s sarcoma – a rare bone cancer which affects fewer than 35 children a year in the UK.
Since his diagnosis in October, he has undergone chemotherapy and had surgery to remove his shoulder blade and part of his collar bone.
And just days ago, his mum Melanie Bosley, learned Zack had been accepted onto a pioneering radiotherapy course in America.
Melanie, who lives in Stowmarket, said: “Zack’s journey started on September 6 last year when he fell out of bed.
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“I checked him over and he was fine, although upset, so I slept at his bedside.
“The next morning he was off his food and just wasn’t right so I checked him over again and that’s when I found a big lump on his shoulder and I thought he had dislocated it.” Melanie, 39, took Zack to West Suffolk Hospital where he had an x-ray, saw an orthopaedic surgeon and had to stay in overnight because he lost some movement.
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“We had to go back in the following day for a scan and that’s when the word ‘tumour’ was mentioned,” she added. “We had the scan and within the hour we were told it was a tumour and needed to go to Addenbrooke’s.
“We walked onto the paediatric day unit at Addenbrooke’s and that’s when it hit me how poorly Zack was.
“Zack underwent a series of tests and on October 2 he had a central line put in and I was told he had Ewing’s sarcoma of his scapula.
“The doctor said it was localised and hadn’t spread and that he would need six rounds of chemotherapy and surgery at Birmingham Royal Orthopaedic Hospital.”
Zack underwent the surgery in February, amazing the medical team with his recovery and discharge just 48 hours later.
Melanie said: “The aim was to remove 95% or more of the tumour and three weeks later we got the results.
“Unfortunately they only killed 75% and the next recommended course of action was radiotherapy which, in this country, they don’t like to do in young children because it stops the bones growing.
“But it was agreed by all of Zack’s doctors that it was the best way to go because the cancer is at a high risk of returning and this will give him the best chance of it not recurring.”
An application was made for Zack to have proton beam therapy at Oklahoma Hospital in America and within days it was accepted.
The treatment is funded by the NHS which pays for travel costs and accommodation for Melanie and Zack.
The family, including Zack’s sister Abigail Cross, nine, are due to fly out at the end of April for around eight weeks.
“For a child that’s growing, the proton therapy will do less damage, but that doesn’t mean all the risks are gone,” Melanie added. “There will be some compromises to make when we’re in America but we don’t know until we are there.
“The hardest thing as a mum is seeing how this disease scars and takes part of your baby away.
“It’s cruel but little ones just bounce back. Zack has not sat down and felt sorry for himself.
“He is still my perfect little baby no matter how many tubes I’ve seen coming out of him or how many scars he’s got.
“But you always have in the back of your mind that he is fighting something that could kill him.”
Melanie said throughout Zack’s journey it has been important to include Abigail.
“She is the strong silent type to the point where there are times I think it’s very easy to overlook siblings,” she added.
“She is conscious she doesn’t want to upset mummy. She has got very stressed and upset about Zack but she holds a lot of it in.
“She’s concentrated on her fundraising finger knitting and sewing which is her way of letting it all out.
“She wants to be involved with America and that’s really important. She can see what’s happening and why Zack needs to go there for treatment.
“Being there for eight weeks without her was just not going to be a possibility.”
For Melanie, September will be a big turning point in the family’s life.
“The fear of relapsing is the biggest worry but I’m looking forward to getting a sense of normality back in September when the chemotherapy and radiotherapy will finish.
“I’m hoping Zack will be able to start nursery and I can start back at work.”