Banbury boy Freddie's special Christmas Card brings funds and awareness to a very rare cancer
One Christmas card being sent from Banbury to far flung places has very special significance to a family whose seven-year-old son is fighting a rare cancer.
The card depicts a cuddly toy, Mutty, who has stayed with little Freddie Croft through a year of gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy after the boy was diagnosed with a very rare bone cancer, Ewing Sarcoma.
The Christmas greeting is raising funds for vital research but is also giving Freddie's parents, Nicole and William Croft, the chance to raise awareness of this very aggressive cancer.
Freddie's symptoms had been misdiagnosed by several GPs but the pain in his chest wall and jaw got worse and worse. Eventually it was his dentist who ordered an immediate trip to specialists in Oxford - but vital time had been lost.
"This cancer is rarer than rare and its nature is metatastic - where it appears in different parts of the body. It's commonly misdiagnosed because it is so rare and very aggressive," said his mother Nicole.
"There were massive signs in Freddie - the big one being pain at night. Ongoing pain in a child shows there is something wrong. All this happened last November. It was so aggressive that during a ten-day wait for the results of a biopsy, the tumour grew so rapidly it was pushing his eye forward. They couldn't control his pain and realised it was Ewing Sarcoma. He started his chemotherapy on November 22, 2019."
Mrs Croft, who lives with William, Freddie and his brothers Albert, four, and Stanley, two, in Bodicote, said she did not expect GPs to be specialists but she believes strongly they should be made more aware of the symptoms.
"Alarms bells should have been ringing when they heard he had pain in the night," she said. "On the ward in Oxford there was every type of tumour and cancer and I can't think of one that hadn't had a missed diagnosis.
"It must be mortifying for a GP to think they have missed this and it is good that the Bone Cancer Research Trust has handed out information packs to surgeries."
Freddie has been through 14 arduous cycles of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiotherapy, five days a week - the latter coinciding with two courses of chemo.
"That was the worst bit by far; his mouth lining was covered with ulcers and he had to stay in hospital on a morphine supply, it was so painful," said Mrs Croft.
Husband and wife shared responsibilities of the household and taking Freddie to hospital and staying close to him through his treatment.
Weeks after the end of his ordeal, Freddie is getting stronger and has gone back to Carrdus School where teachers and other pupils have taken great care of him.
With him all the way - even into the CT scanner - has been his favourite cuddly toy, Mutty. And it is Mutty who is the subject of Carrdus teaching assistant Wendy Price's Christmas card design.
The special festive card is available at the Croft family's pet feed store in Broad Street and from Ms Price at [email protected] - the cost is £2 each or £7.50 for a pack of 5 cards.
Freddie still has to have an MRI scan every three months which demands having a cannula fitted and he has to stay absolutely still for 45 minutes.
"It's very hard for a seven-year-old boy," said Mrs Croft. "There is no shielding us from the risk of relapse and I want to raise awareness and funds for research as much as possible.
"In 2019 the major UK cancer research charities reduced their direct bone cancer research investment for the third year running. It declined by a massive 17 per cent to a mere £198,575, the lowest figure since 2002. Collectively these charities spent over £700million on cancer research, yet despite having some of the most brutal treatment regimes and poorest of outcomes, just 0.028 per cent was spent on bone cancer, not even close to one per cent." said Mrs Croft.
The Croft family has suffered huge distress and disruption as they have done their best to deal with a devastating situation.
"The start was the worst. Now it's terrifying - but if Freddie's OK, we're OK," said Mrs Croft. "We have been blown away with everyone’s support. our Facebook page has 700 followers; we have had support messages for Freddie from the police, fireman, our amazing postman and colleagues and Scots guards.
"We have had marathons run for him, a group of paramedics doing 3000 push-ups in a month, a cake sale, a midwife working extra hours for two months to donate to us, a head shave now the card. It’s been amazing and we can’t thank everyone enough."
To read more about the Croft family's story, or to donate to the Croft's fund - Freddie's Future - go to this page on the BCRT site.
Laura Mills, Freddie’s class teacher at Carrdus School said, “Freddie is a very kind and gentle boy and since starting with us this September, he has made lots of friends and shown us all what resilience means.”
Carrdus Headmaster, Ed Way said, “I really hope that lots of other families in and around Banbury choose this card to send to their friends and family. Freddie is such a brave young man who loves school and I hope this small but meaningful gesture will help raise awareness of this terrible disease.”