Harry's helping hands!

My son has been so caring, despite his own tragic plight

Published by: Jai Breitnauer
Published on: 7th July 2010

My youngest son Harry hunched over the table colouring in, bless him. Creeping up behind him, I leaned over to see what he was drawing – and my heart nearly broke.
There was a big swimming pool, coloured in blue, with me sunbathing at the side.
In the water, Harry had glued a cut-out picture of himself grinning in his trunks, and underneath he’d written: You promised to take me swimming, so you must get better, in very careful handwriting.
‘It’s for Robert,’ he said, smiling up at me. ‘We’re going to visit him tomorrow, aren’t we?’
‘Of course, love,’ I croaked, trying to blink back tears.
Harry and Robert were unlikely friends. For a start, Harry was nine, and Robert was 55.
But when they’d met in the radiotherapy department of Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, they’d hit it off straight away, and we’d soon realised they had plenty in common.
Robert was the director of his own company, and my Harry was a proper little Sir Alan Sugar, always coming up with money-making schemes.
Robert loved swimming, and had his own pool, while Harry was probably a fish in a previous life.
Robert had a cancerous brain tumour… and so did Harry. Both hoped radiotherapy would save their lives.
It’s hard to remember what life was like three years ago, before our little boy started complaining of problems with his eyes.
‘I can’t see the computer games properly, or watch any of my favourite shows on TV,’ he moaned.
If he’d said he couldn’t do his homework I would have ignored him, but not watching TV or playing with his sister Danielle, 16, and brother Louis, 13. Well… things had to be serious.
Harry had an MRI, and the news wasn’t good.
‘There’s a mass on his brain,’ the consultant explained.
‘You can take it out, though, can’t you?’ I said, panic rising in my chest. ‘You can operate?’
As the consultant shook his head, my heart broke.
My little Harry, my baby…
‘His only hope is chemotherapy, and then radiotherapy when he’s a bit older,’ the doctor said.
We started the treatment immediately, but Harry was made so ill by the chemo. Even worse, it wasn’t even helping him, so after four months we gave up.
But when he started radiotherapy, he really perked up – and that was partly thanks to Robert.
Each week they’d sit together, cracking jokes and winding up the nurses, and when the sessions came to an end, Harry gave Robert a box of chocolates and a good luck card.
‘I hope you get better,’ Harry smiled at him.
‘You too,’ Robert grinned. ‘And here’s a card for you – keep in touch.’ As he’d handed Harry his business card, my boy beamed – Harry was so proud!
They emailed each other or spoke on the phone every week, but while radiotherapy seemed to have stopped Harry’s tumour from growing, Robert’s was getting bigger by the day, and a secondary cancer had developed, too.
‘I’ve got to go into hospital again,’ he said sadly one day.
‘I’ll come and visit you,’ Harry promised him.
Each week, we’d take Robert a hand-made card, and Harry would tell him what he’d been up to at school, talk rubbish about football and computer games. Robert seemed to like listening – he was often too weak to talk.
‘I wish I could do something to help people like us,’ Harry sighed one afternoon. ‘Something that’d raise money, help people get better.’
I gently ruffled his hair.
‘I think you should concentrate on your own health,’ I sighed.
While Harry’s tumour hadn’t grown, and his health seemed good, I was aware it was still there. I felt like I was living with a time bomb, that any day my little man could keel over.
But Harry wasn’t going to let a little thing like a brain tumour stop him.
‘No. I want to make bracelets,’ he said. ‘Those beaded ones like Danielle and her friends wear.
‘I can sell them, and donate the money to Brain Tumour UK.’
I thought he meant he’d make them himself, and sell a few to his mates – but he had bigger plans.
‘I’m going to get local businesses on board, and get schools to make them,’ he told me that afternoon. Then he pointed to his computer screen: ‘Look.’
He’d done a PowerPoint presentation. While I gaped in amazement, he carried on. ‘Robert told me loads about business. If I pay schools 15p a bracelet and sell them for £1, I can donate 85p for each bracelet to the charity.’
‘Good idea,’ I smiled. ‘But it’s a bit ambitious.’
‘In for a penny, in for a pound, Mum,’ he grinned. Only Robert could have taught him that!
Within a couple of weeks, he’d made a presentation to local shopkeepers, which finished with a round of applause, and he convinced a couple of schools to donate time to the production line.
‘I can’t wait to tell Robert!’ he smiled.
But when we arrived at the hospital that weekend, things weren’t looking good. Robert was so weak he could barely move, and nurses told us he was going to be transferred home – they could do no more for him.
‘I could come over, go in your pool,’ Harry offered desperately. ‘Or I could bake you a cake. I could come and look after you.’
Tears filled Roberts eyes. ‘That would be brilliant,’ he whispered.
‘Come on,’ I said. ‘Let Robert get some rest.’
Harry nodded, and walked over to his bed. ‘Can I have a kiss before I go?’ he whispered.
It took all Robert’s strength,
but he managed to turn his head so Harry could plant a smacker on his cheek. A goodbye kiss.
The next weekend we were on our way to Robert’s house, Harry clutching a teddy wearing a special bracelet he’d made for him, when my mobile went.
‘That was Robert’s wife,’ I said, after hanging up the phone. ‘I’m afraid he’s passed away.’
‘But, the bracelet…’ Harry whispered, tears rolling down his cheeks. Suddenly, he started
crying uncontrollably.
‘I didn’t make him a cake, Mum,’ he sniffed into my shoulder. ‘I didn’t look after him like I said.’
‘He knows you cared,’ I whispered. But Harry was so young, he’d never lost a friend before. I felt terrible.
He shouldn’t have to go through it… not in his condition.
Robert was buried a couple of weeks later, wearing the bracelet Harry made for him. But instead of giving up, his death just seemed to make Harry more determined.
He now has 15 schools making the bracelets, and another seven or eight selling them. Each weekend we go to craft fairs selling Harry’s designs. So far he’s given £27,000 to Brain Tumour UK. In March, he won a Children’s Champion Award at a celebrity event in London.
‘One day there’ll be a cure,’ he tells me. I just hope it doesn’t come too late for Harry.
The last scan showed his tumour had changed shape, the next one may show growth. If it does, then there’s nowhere left for us to turn.
Harry’s happy making his bracelets, living in ‘the now’. How long will that last for? Only time will tell.
Georgina Moseley, 35, Birmingham