The boy of steel

With his baby sister Holly to love, Harvey didn't give cancer a second thought

Published by: Dawn Murden and Lucy Laing
Published on: 28 March 2013

Cuddling up on the sofa, my son Harvey put his ear to my bulging tummy and giggled.
‘I think I hear Holly, Mummy,' he said proudly.
‘You should sing to her,' I smiled. ‘If she hears your voice now, she'll recognise it when
she's born.'
‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star,' he sang. ‘How I wonder what you are.'
Things had certainly changed from when me and my boyfriend Daniel had told him
I was pregnant.
My other boys Tyreese, 11, and Lennox, nine, had been delighted. But Harvey, four, became very sulky.
‘I won't be the baby anymore,' he'd moaned.
‘I think Harvey doesn't like the idea of growing up,' I confided in my sister Rachel.
Luckily, she had an idea.
‘Being a big brother is an important job,' she whispered to him. ‘So this is your very special handbook to read.'
She then gave him a book called I'm Going To Be a Big Brother and his face lit up.
After that, I'd read it to him every night. And, as my bump grew, so did his excitement.
‘I'm going to take care of her,' he told me, as we lay on the sofa.
‘I know,' I smiled.
And he didn't have to wait much longer. My caesarean was booked for the following day.
The next morning, me and Daniel left for the hospital while his sister Jenny looked after the boys for us.
Holly arrived, weighing a healthy 7lb 7oz. After having our first cuddles, Daniel stepped outside to call both of our families. But he came back in looking slightly worried.
‘Jenny took Harvey to the doctors because he had blood in his wee again,' he said. ‘They have referred him here. He's downstairs having some tests right now.'
Harvey had suffered two urine infections a few months earlier, but they had cleared up with antibiotics. But why had the doctor now sent him to hospital?
‘I'm sure it's nothing to worry about,' Daniel added.
After the tests, Jenny and the boys came to see us.
‘Can I hold her?' Harvey asked, excitedly. He was wearing a T-shirt we'd bought him, saying I'm The Big Brother.
Jenny gently placed Holly in his lap. He cradled her with his left arm as he had a tube in his right. My heart should have been full of happiness, but instead panic was gnawing away at me.
Was there something terribly wrong with Harvey?
Later on, two doctors came to speak to me and Daniel.
‘We've found a lump on Harvey's kidney,' one explained. ‘It's cancerous.'
‘No!' I gasped. But I couldn't get any more words out.
Harvey could die, I thought.
He had to be transferred to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford for an MRI scan. Daniel wheeled me up to say goodbye to him.
‘Where's Holly?' Harvey said, as soon as he saw me.
‘She's sleeping,' I replied. ‘Grandad's going to take you to another hospital tomorrow. You have bad germs in your body and the special doctors there know how to zap them.'
‘Okay,' he said. ‘As long as I can say bye to Holly.'
Bless him, all he cared about was his little sister.
After the MRI scan, I had a phone call from a consultant.
‘We want to remove the tumour in surgery,' he explained. ‘But it's the size of a rugby ball, so we need to try shrinking it with chemotherapy.'
The thought of something so huge inside him made me feel sick.
Harvey came home for a few weeks before he started treatment, and he always wanted to be around Holly.
‘What are you doing?' he gasped, when I started breastfeeding her.
‘You did that once,' I giggled.
‘Yuck!' he said.
When he had to go into hospital for chemo, I decided that me and Holly would stay with him.
‘We're going on a big brother and little sister adventure,' I explained to him.
‘Yippee!' he cried.
‘How do you feel?' I asked a few days later, after his first round of chemo.
‘Okay,' he smiled. ‘Is Holly awake? I want to watch Thomas The Tank Engine with her.'
As soon as she stirred, I sat her on his lap for a cuddle and they watched TV together.
I could tell the treatment was making him feel ill, but he was too busy with Holly to care.
‘I'll go and get her some toys,' he said, hopping out of bed, pulling his drip along with him.
He fetched nappies for me and when she started on solids, he'd help me feed her.
Over the next 11 months, he was in and out of hospital. And every time he had to stay overnight, me and Holly would stay, too.
She loved all the attention from her big brother. And because she was there to give him cuddles, he never felt down.
‘All they need is each other,' I said to Daniel. ‘They're looking after each other in a way I can't compete with.'
Every time Holly cried, Harvey ran around the room doing monkey noises to make her laugh. The bond they built was amazing.
Harvey finished his treatment on Holly's birthday. All the family came to the house to celebrate. However, he wouldn't let anyone make a fuss over him though, Holly had to be centre of attention.
‘Here you go,' he smiled, handing her a present. He'd chosen a book for her.
Weeks later, we had some news.
‘The chemo didn't work as well as we'd hoped,' a doctor explained. ‘But we're going to go ahead with the surgery anyway.'
We all gave Harvey a big cuddle before he went down to theatre. Six hours later, he was out.
‘It went well,' the doctors told us. ‘But there were signs the cancer may have spread. So we need to do radiotherapy.'
My heart broke for Harvey. He was already so worn out from all the treatment he'd had so far.
‘Take Thomas in with you,' I said.
Clutching his little Thomas toy gave him the strength to stay still as he lay under the machine that zapped the cancer cells.
After three weeks of treatment, Harvey came home. Watching him cuddle Holly on the sofa as they watched Thomas was bittersweet. Would Harvey beat the cancer?
The following month, Harvey had test after test to see if the treatment had worked. Finally, the doctor had good news.
‘The tumour has gone,' he said.
‘That's the best news I've ever heard,' I beamed.
Harvey hadn't been able to do much to celebrate his fifth birthday. But now we had all the more reason for a celebration.
We rented out a hall for a superhero party. Lennox and Daniel dressed as Batman, I was Super Mum, Holly was Super Baby and, appropriately, Harvey was the Man of Steel himself, Superman. We even got him a special Super Harvey cake.
The charity Make a Wish Foundation also organised for him to meet Mister Maker from his favourite arts and crafts programme on CBeebies.
Six months ago, doctors told us Harvey was cancer-free. He still has check-ups, but he's doing fantastically. He's also gone back to school.
Holly's now walking and babbling, but six-year-old Harvey's the only one who understands her! After everything they've gone through together, they have a bond that can never
be broken.
Emma Nelson, 34, Bracknell, Berkshire