Sleaford family raise awareness after toddler’s brain tumour battle as twin brother helps him with recovery

James (left) and Joshua O'Connor with dad Carl and mum Chantelle on their second birthday. EMN-170731-145613001
James (left) and Joshua O'Connor with dad Carl and mum Chantelle on their second birthday. EMN-170731-145613001

A Sleaford family are backing an awareness campaign after three-year-old son James O’Connor was diagnosed with a brain tumour but has recovered aided by his twin brother, Joshua.

Chantelle and Carl O’Connor could not be prouder of both their sons, as they have shown such courage and determination – James in battling a brain tumour and Joshua in always being at his brother’s side.

After surgery and an intensive course of chemotherapy over 56 weeks, comprising seven cycles and five different drugs, the family had “the biggest party ever” in June to celebrate James finishing chemo and to thank loved ones.

Now the O’Connors are backing The Brain Tumour Charity’s HeadSmart campaign to raise awareness about children’s brain tumour symptoms and reducing diagnosis time. They have made a video of their story to back the campaign’s bid for Lottery money to continue its work.

The couple’s nightmare started in February last year when they received the devastating news that James had a brain tumour.

After surgery, he was unable to talk for two weeks or walk for two months.

“Joshua had a huge impact on James’ recovery, especially after surgery,” said Chantelle, 28.

Joshua was the first one who made him smile and cuddled him in his hospital bed.

James underwent intensive chemotherapy, causing hair loss and painful ulcers.

“Now James has regained all of his speech and is on a par with Joshua,” said Chantelle.

“We are so unbelievably proud of our two boys. They have both shown so much strength, courage and determination.”

Just before his diagnosis James started vomiting three-four times a day, had an unsteady gait at times and complained about feeling ‘wobbly’ in his head”.

His behaviour became extreme, screaming and lashing out and he developed an aversion to bright lights and certain pitched noises.

After seeing five health care professionals over two weeks, on February 2, 2016, they took James to Lincoln A&E, determined to get answers. Staff ordered a CT scan and a doctor broke the news that night.

His tumour had started to attach itself to his brain stem. James underwent eight-and-half-hours surgery and they were able to remove the whole cancerous tumour.

“Early diagnosis is the best way of achieving removal of the whole tumour, or most of it, and giving children the greatest chance,” said Carl, 30, an RAF engineer.

“And we want to help spare other families the nightmare we’ve been through.”

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