Josh Asbury’s parents, from Worcestershire, are convinced that without the nine-year-old being admitted to a hospital for Covid, his cancer would have remained undetected
The parents of a schoolboy with cancer believe catching Covid saved the youngster’s life.
Josh Asbury, nine, started suffering with fatigue and a lack of appetite after being infected with coronavirus in September.
At a visit to his local GP surgery, a physician told parents Andy, 30, and Heather, 29, he was likely experiencing after affects of the virus and sent him home.
Josh then started complaining of back ache just under his left shoulder blade and a visit to the GP showed air pockets in his lungs and he was sent for a scan.
But the schoolboy’s health quickly deteriorated and he was rushed to hospital by ambulance when he began struggling for breath last month.
Doctors at Birmingham Children’s Hospital found he had a collapsed lung and while they were operating they discovered an unusual growth.
Tests revealed he had T-lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma and he was immediately started on an aggressive course of chemotherapy.
Dad Andy, of Evesham, Worcs., said: “I was just extremely shocked.
“It’s hard to explain as a parent when you are told you son might have cancer.
“We got the official diagnosis after two days and weirdly, it was a weight off our shoulders knowing what he had got an there was a plan in place.
“He had gone into surgery for a collapsed lung and doctors noticed something that didn’t look right.
“I went off to pick his younger brother up from nursery and then got a call asking us to come back.
“We thought he was just recovering from his lung surgery but there was a respiratory oncology doctor and a few nurses in the meeting room – we knew it wasn’t good news.
“It was a massive shock for everybody, even the doctors.”
Josh started chemotherapy on November 20 and treatment is expected to last three and a half years.
Residential care manager Andy and Heather, a teaching assistant, believe if it wasn’t for Covid then Jack’s cancer may be never have been discovered.
Andy added: “We won’t ever know for sure if it was Covid that sped up his diagnosis but some people are saying in a way Covid saved his life.
“He had a collapsed lung; did that happen because of Covid? We just don’t know but if it wasn’t for this virus then the cancer may not have been found.
“The mass on his chest was quite big, it was 12cm. It doesn’t sound big but when it is on your chest and on your airway, it is quite some size.
“Luckily, it has started to shrink and has responded to treatment quite well – it’s now 50 per cent of what it was.
“But in 12 weeks we have gone from having a very fit and healthy boy who would normally be playing football every weekend to one who is very tired and fatigued.
“Normally he doesn’t sit still, he is always out and about, playing with friends. He never stops.
“He is very tired and fatigued. I think it is playing with his mental health too – he can’t do the things he would like to do like play football every Saturday.
“He loves school, at the minute he can’t attend school.
“The weekend after chemotherapy are always difficult days for him – he was quite sick yesterday. He’s just not himself at all.
“The first six months are weekly chemotherapy, then monthly chemotherapy through medicine and tablets.
“Seeing the end date of 2025 for chemotherapy is tough to see and leukaemia in boys is always much difficult – it can hide in different places.
“We have shared care with Birmingham and Worcestershire Royal Hospital – they have both been amazing.”
While battling cancer, Josh has continued to think of other and has used his own pocket money to buy Birmingham Children Hospital badges for his classmates and teachers at Badsey First School.
Andy added: “He has just been very brave and taken it all on board, although I am not sure how much of it he understands.
“We have all been very open with him about everything that is going on.
“Some days he is very sad and down and he just wants to go out with friends. He asks ‘why me? Why can’t I go out and play?’
“We do get the occasional smile from him but it takes a lot more now.”
With restrictions in place, Andy says only one parent can stay in hospital alongside Josh – while the other nominated parent can stay for two hours.
Andy said: “It’s been hard. Heather has spent weeks in hospital and I am trying to keep life as normal as possible for his brother, Jack, who is three-years-old. He struggled with that.
“Due to visiting restrictions I didn’t see my wife for about three and a half weeks. Heather could have come home but she wanted to be there for Josh at all times.
“We have tried to keep everything normal for Jack, taking him to nursery, and have dinner at home, but he knew Josh was poorly.
“Now Josh is home it feels similar to the first lockdown. We don’t go out too much and don’t invite people in. It is a massive change.”
With the family going through such difficult times, Josh’s aunt, Victoria Jinks, decided to launch a GoFundMe so that Josh could go on holiday once treatment is complete.
So far, the fundraiser has received £8,147.
Andy said: “It is really crazy. Josh is a huge animal lover so I’m sure we will spend it on something animal-related. He has mentioned going to Australia to see the Kangaroos.
“But it is Josh’s money so we will wait until he has finished his treatment and then he can decide what he wants to do.”
Anyone wishing to donate to Josh’s cause can do so here.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.