We’re following Joseph’s Journey back from leukaemia

Joseph Devaney.
Joseph Devaney.

Tiny Joseph Devaney was taken to the doctors multiple times feeling poorly – but his parents were told he was fine.

In fact the brave tot, from Morecambe, had leukaemia – only diagnosed after he became so ill he was rushed to hospital in an ambulance.

The youngster has now endured months of chemotherapy and a life-saving operation in his fight against leukaemia – cancer of the blood cells.

His mum and dad Lindsay and Leon have been to hell and back during their son’s treatment and at one point were told to prepare themselves for the worst.

Now the Devaneys are warning other parents to look out for the early signs of the killer disease and for GPs to be more aware of the symptoms.

And The Visitor is launching a new campaign - which we are calling Joseph’s Journey - to help the battle against this disease.

Joseph, three, was a healthy and happy little boy until earlier this year. Then one day he was walking down stairs at home and his leg gave way. He also developed mysterious bruises on his shins. The youngster then got tonsilitis, twice had an ear infection, lost his appetite, was lethargic and had a rash.

Lindsay, 33, said: “The doctors said he was fine, it wasn’t anything to worry about.Then his leg gave way again and I took him back to the doctors. I thought then it was really strange. But they said it wouldn’t need an X-ray. They just made him run up and down the corridor to see if his leg was OK.

“It took seven weeks to get him a blood test. It was just a big farce. GPs have to be more aware of the symptoms.”

Lindsay would not take no for an answer and persisted until on March 22, Joseph was so ill they had to call for an ambulance.

He was taken into the Royal Lancaster Infirmary where the Devaneys were given the shattering news that their little boy had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

“My first words were: ‘How long has he got to live?’” said Leon, 32.

Joseph was rushed into Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and has remained there ever since.

He was placed under the care of Professor Robert Wynn, one of the leading oncologists in the country.

“He calmed us and put a lot of confidence in us,” said Leon, who works in The Visitor’s display advertising department.

“The way it was explained to us was that your bone marrow produces flowers. At the moment, Joseph’s bone marrow is producing weeds, and they need to kill all the weeds.”

Joseph underwent a course of daily chemotherapy and steroid treatment, but after a week-and-a-half, he began complaining of stomach pains and couldn’t eat.

An X-ray showed his bowel had perforated and he needed emergency four-hour surgery to save his life.

“It was touch and go,” said Lindsay. “We were told to prepare ourselves to lose our son.”

Thankfully Joseph recovered and is now in remission. His prognosis is good and he has been allowed home for visits. And throughout the horrendous experience, Joseph has kept on smiling.

“He’s been an absolute credit to us, he’s been fantastic,” said Leon.

Childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.

ALL is the most common type of cancer in children.

Leukaemia is the 11th most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for 3% of all deaths from cancer. In 2011, there were 4,603 deaths in the UK.

The Visitor contacted NHS England to ask what training GPs receive to help them identify the signs of leukaemia. They were compiling a response as we went to press and we will include this next week.

For more on Joseph’s story see next week’s Visitor.