Nine-Year-Old Brit Is Celebrating After Beating One Of The Rarest Forms Of Cancer
A nine-year-old boy has become one of the only people in the world to beat a super-rare cancer after life or death surgery to remove and then reinsert his liver.
Saul Hayden was diagnosed with stage four malignant rhabdoid tumour of the liver after he complained of a sore tummy and his mum Vicki Kay-Spruce, 32, found a lump.
Doctors warned it was one of the rarest forms of cancer, and medical journals revealed just 53 other people in the world had fought the disease - and only five had ever survived.
But the little LAD underwent ten rounds of chemotherapy before pioneering surgery to remove his liver, get rid of the cancer, and put the organ back in.
Remarkably the ten-hour operation and treatment were successful - a scan last month revealed he is now cancer-free.
Boots worker Vicki, from Northwich, Cheshire, said: "It was one of the best days of my life. It's the best news I could have ever wished for. We are looking forward to being a normal family again and it does feel strange to know he doesn't need any more treatment.
"It has been the hardest year of our life. This cancer took over everything we have done. Saul is absolutely amazing and I can't find the words for how proud I am of him.
"He is the most amazing person I have ever met. The way he has fought this is just incredible. I can't find the words for what this means to us. Even the doctors said they didn't think we'd ever get to this point."
Before April last year, Saul was a healthy boy who loved playing video games and hanging out with his friends after school.
But he started to feel unwell and lost his appetite and his mum thought Saul might be coming down with a virus. He was complaining about stomach pains so Vicki felt his belly in a bid to reassure her son that he was fine.
But Vicki, also mum to 14-year-old Isabelle, found a 'strange lump' so took him to A&E at Warrington Hospital. Doctors performed an ultrasound which picked up a mass on Saul's liver.
The pair were referred to Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool, where they were told Saul had cancer on 23 April. His cancer was described as one of the rarest forms recorded by medical literature in just 53 other people worldwide and associated with 'poor outcomes'.
Vicki said: "I remember the first time they said he had cancer and I was devastated. They said it was in his liver and spread to his lungs through an artery. It was heartbreaking and I didn't go a single day without crying for a long time.
"You just never think an eight-year-old boy would ever get cancer. It's terrifying because there were no real signs and he seemed fine. But it had been there a few months and had spread.
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"He was given a poor prognosis because of how aggressive it is. This cancer can change quickly and react to treatment in a bad way. We were told it is one of the most difficult cancers to treat. The outlook they gave him was not good but they said they would do whatever they could."
Vicki said doctors told her operating was too risky and the cancer had to be reduced to make surgery an option.
Saul started a programme of 13 rounds of chemotherapy and often struggled to cope with the side effects of the treatment, Vicki said.
After more than 80 days of chemotherapy a scan in August revealed the cancer had shrunk enough for doctors to consider a life-saving operation.
On 18 September, at Birmingham Children's Hospital, medics isolated the blood flow to Saul's liver, physically removed the organ and cut out the cancerous cells.
Surgeons also completely removed the infected artery - which connected his liver to his heart - and made him a new one from two donations, from a 75-year-old and a 25-year-old man.
"Without the surgery there was no chance for him," said Vicki, adding: "The operation was so rare they were reluctant to do it at all.
"They were worried he wouldn't make it at all. I was told one in ten adults don't survive this type of operation so it was even riskier for him. I can't put into words what it has been like for us."
Saul was on a programme of combined radiotherapy and chemotherapy as doctors did all they could to kill off the remaining cancer.
The programme finished in January - and a scan revealed there was no longer any 'evidence of disease'. Vicki said: "I don't know how but he has found the strength from somewhere to keep smiling through everything.
"They have said they are amazed at how well he has done. We were warned that him not surviving was more likely than survival. It's the worst prognosis before saying it's terminal."
Vicki is back at work and hopes Saul will be back in school before the end of the year.
Doctors will continue to monitor his recovery and Saul will have a scan every six weeks to make sure the cancer stays at bay.
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Featured Image Credit: SWNS