Cheeky chappy to the rescue

My boys were full of mischief, but they would also turn life-saver for each other

Published by: Dawn Murden
Published on: 21 March 2013

Knock, knock, the door went. When I poked my head outside, there was no one there, but I could hear giggling. ‘Boo!' my sons Dane, Dylan and Aston chorused jumping out. ‘Welcome back, cheeky monkeys,' I beamed. Their dad Mark, 31, was dropping them back after the weekend.
‘Bundle!' Dane shouted, as he dashed inside. Dylan and Aston piled on top of him, shrieking with laughter. ‘Were they good?' I asked, as they rolled around in the hall.
Mark grinned and shook his head. ‘I think they'll all grow up to be wrestlers, the amount of play fights they've had,' he said.
The three of them bickered over everything - from whose turn it was to sit in the front of the car to having a go on the computer. But their scuffles were all good-natured and they never really hurt each other. And they were very gentle with my son Taylor, four, and Mark's son Riley, five, who were too young to join in the rough and tumble.
‘I'll see you in a few days,' Mark said, waving goodbye.
We'd met 12 years earlier and although it hadn't worked out between us, we were good friends. He was a great dad and the boys really looked up to him.
Dylan, eight, was sporty like Mark, while Dane, 10, had inherited his cheeky sense of humour. Aston, six, had always been the quieter one.
A few days later, I noticed Aston was even quieter than usual. Instead of playing with his brothers, he wanted to go to bed early. And when I put his pyjamas on, I noticed a white spot on his shoulder. Not long after, it got infected. The GP gave him two courses of antibiotics, but after three weeks it was still there. He always seemed tired and complained that his legs hurt. And although he was hardly playing with his brothers, he was still covered in bruises. ‘He could be anaemic,' Louise, a mum at the school said. On her advice, I took him to the doctors for tests. ‘Take him home to rest,' the doctor said. ‘We'll have the results in a week.'
Then, one night, just as I'd tucked sleepy Aston into bed, the door went. As I opened it, my heart leapt. It was the doctor.
‘We think Aston has leukaemia,' he said. ‘He needs to go to hospital for tests.'
‘Oh my god,' I panicked. ‘I've got to let his dad know.' Mark drove us to Leicester Royal Infirmary where Aston stayed overnight for tests. The next afternoon, the doctor had news.
‘I'm sorry, but Aston has acute myeloid leukaemia, a cancer of the blood cells,' he told us.
‘Is he going to die?' I cried.
‘We've caught it early,' he replied. ‘He needs to start chemo immediately.' Aston was transferred to the Queens Medical centre in Nottingham. He was put on a ward with a pull-out bed for Mark. We decided he'd stay as I had to look after the boys at home.
At home, I told Dane and Dylan. Taylor was too young to understand.
Aston started chemo and Mark called me constantly with updates. ‘Every morning, he wakes at the crack of dawn and drags me to the games room,' Mark said. ‘He really misses the boys though.'
‘And they're missing him,' I said. Dane and Dylan spoke to Aston on the phone every day.
‘I wish you were here to beat me at computer games,' Dylan told him. ‘I took your turn to sit in the front of the car,' Dane chimed in. I could hear Aston giggling on the other end of the line. His cheeky brothers always kept his spirits up. But they were finding it tough, too.
‘Having extra chips for dinner doesn't make up for Aston,' Dane said sadly one morning.
‘Well, you can tell him that yourself,'
I said. ‘We're seeing him today.' As soon as we got there, the boys piled on to Aston's bed for a cuddle.
Aston was losing his hair, but the boys weren't fazed at all. They understood that he wasn't well enough for their usual play fights. So they sat quietly playing computer games.
A few weeks later Mark called, his voice breaking.
‘What is it?' I panicked.
‘The chemo's not working,' Mark said.
The next day, the consultant sat us down. ‘Our last hope is a bone marrow transplant,' he said.
‘It's unlikely you or Mel would be a match,' he added. ‘Dylan and Dane are our best hope.' The wait for results was nerve-racking. Then, two weeks later...‘Both boys are perfect matches' the consultant told us. It was an overwhelming relief. We wanted Dane to do it as he was the eldest, but we didn't want to force him.
‘Both you and Dylan were a match,' I explained to him. ‘I want to do it,' he said immediately. Four months after Aston was diagnosed, Dane went to hospital for surgery to extract some of his bone marrow fluid. ‘Will it hurt?' he asked nervously. ‘You'll be asleep, so you won't feel a thing,' Mark soothed. Aston was in isolation because of a risk of an infection and couldn't see Dane. Me and Mark were running back and forth between the boys.
After an overnight stay, Dane came home. Meanwhile, his bone marrow was given to Aston in a drip. ‘He can go home,' the doctor said after two weeks. ‘The transplant has worked.'
Now, three months on, Aston's still on medication and has to go back to
the hospital every week, but now Dane and Dylan are having to keep up with him!
He was always the quieter one but, these days, Aston is the cheekiest of the bunch.
My boys are closer than ever and Aston and Dane will always have a very special bond. When he's older and can understand properly, I know Aston is going to be so grateful to his hero brother for saving his life.

• Mark is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for Nottingham Queen's Medical Centre. Visit

Melanie Bradford, 35, Swadlincote, Derbyshire