Son's diagnosis with leukaemia and the day our world turned upside down
Finding out your child has cancer is a parent's worst nightmare. Isaac Crowson spoke to a couple about their battle after their little boy was diagnosed with leukaemia.
A COUPLE from Chaddesden have told of the pain they have suffered after finding out their son had leukaemia – and their battle to fight it.
Tyler Stackhouse was diagnosed with the disease in February last year when he was two.
He spent the following three months at the Queen's Medical Centre, in Nottingham, before returning to the family home on Nottingham Road.
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Mum Alex Haynes gave birth to her daughter, Alesha, only two weeks before the diagnosis. And Alex suffered double heartbreak when her grandmother died from breast cancer in April.
The 21-year-old said: "It was absolutely horrible because everything just happened all at once.
"After we found out, I was at home and stayed with Alesha while my boyfriend, Jamie, was at the hospital all the time with Tyler.
"When I was at home on my own, I couldn't go and visit and stay with Jamie, but I had a newborn baby to bring up. I couldn't be in two places at once even though I really wanted to be.
"The house was so quiet with just us two in it. I tried to keep myself busy the best I could and having Alesha made sure of that – but I still felt so alone. I was constantly crying and just wanted things to get better.
"Then two months later, we found out my nana passed away. It was absolute hell. I didn't think things could get any worse."
Tyler had started to complain of backache, which Alex put down to growing pains.
After three weeks, a doctor prescribed Tyler with paracetamol but it failed to help.
Another set of stronger paracetamol a week later also failed to relieve the pain, so doctors sent Tyler for the first of two X-rays, which showed no problems.
Tyler became unable to walk three weeks after the first X-ray so he was sent to Royal Derby Hospital for three days of tests.
The family were told to go to the QMC because they suspected it could be cancer – but such a condition could not be diagnosed at Derby.
When they got to the QMC, it was confirmed as acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Tyler's father, 21-year-old Jamie Stackhouse, said: "We completely broke down. We couldn't stop crying.
"When Tyler was in hospital, I was having to spend all my time with him while I had my girlfriend and my new baby daughter at home. We just felt so separated."
Tyler was allowed to return home after three months, although he was unable to walk and was very ill.
Alex said: "For quite a while it was like having three babies with everything we had to do.
"Tyler was constantly being sick because of the treatment and the medication he was taking.
"It took both of us to bathe him and get him into bed and then I had Alesha, who was just a few months old, to look after as well.
"Looking after a new baby is a hard enough job for anybody but to have an ill son as well made things much harder.
"Tyler will still have to go through another two years of chemotherapy. He takes tablets every night.
"Usually, with this type of leukaemia, after three years and three months of treatment, there's an all-clear and everything should be OK.
"He's also having to have lumbar punctures, which Jamie does for him, and all his other medicines.
"He's a lot better now though. The medication is weaker than what he was taking at first so the effects are less. He's no longer fed through a tube, which is an improvement."
The pain for the family did not end there though.
Tyler suffered a seizure, which could have killed him, in October.
Jamie, a former removal van driver, who is now Tyler's full-time carer, said: "One minute, he was fine and the next he was having a fit and just went to sleep.
"It was like there was nobody there at all. He was just motionless."
Tyler was rushed to Royal Derby Hospital and woke two hours later feeling fine.
But Alex said: "It was horrible. After everything we'd been through to get to this point, to go through all the pain and suffering again was a nightmare.
"We'd been through so much already."
Jamie gave up work on the day that it was confirmed Tyler had leukaemia because all of his time would be needed to spend with Tyler – both for the three months in hospital and when he returned home ill and unable to walk.
The emergencies did not end there, though. On February 22, Tyler hurt himself while playing and was taken to Royal Derby Hospital again.
Alex said: "He was playing with his cousin when he hit his head on the floor. When something like that happens, all the bad memories just come racing back and you start to think the same things over and over again.
"Rushing in and not knowing what's going on is terrible and going through the doors to the same place brings back terrible memories.
"Tyler's back home now and has some bruises but he will be OK. We just want some peace now."
Jamie has nothing but praise for the staff at the Queen's Medical Centre after spending three months with Tyler there when the leukaemia was first discovered.
He said: "We'd both like to thank everybody at the hospital. They did a fantastic job. Without them, Tyler wouldn't be here and we owe them so many thanks."
For Alex, it brought her comfort to know he was being well looked after.
She said: "Being at home and not really knowing what was going on all the time was very difficult but I can't praise the staff enough – they're brilliant."
It is now just over a year ago since the drama began but there is a birthday to look forward to.
Jamie said: "Tyler turns four in April and we can't wait to do something special for him. He really deserves it – he's been through so much.
"He's now back on his feet and we're both so proud of him, he's been amazing."
Alex added: "I can't believe it's been just over a year since it all happened. It's gone so quickly.
"We're starting to cope as a family better now. You have to stay strong for each other to get through it.
"Alesha turned one in January and is now walking, which is really nice."
The couple also want to thank Allenton charity Catch Me When I Fall, which will be donating 500 wristbands with the words "Tyler the Fighter" on them.
Alex said: "They've been really good to us and we really appreciate it. It's just nice to see people out there who care about you and want to help."