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Daily Record
Daily Record
Jennifer Hyland

Family of Scots boy with rare cancer desperately need £250k for American drug trial

The parents of a four-year-old boy with a rare cancer are desperately appealing for help to raise £250,000 to send him for a drug trial in America that could prolong his life.

Little Calum Rae has high-risk neuroblastoma - a rare but aggressive cancer - which has a five-year survival rate of around only 50 per cent.

Mum Victoria McDonald, who was a child when she lost her own mother to cancer and dad Andrew Rae are hoping that the treatment will will give them more time with their son.

Andrew, 35, from Troon, Ayrshire said: “We have to be strong, we have to keep fighting for Calum and we are doing everything we can to help save our little boy. We just need some help.”

Calum, who was diagnosed in March, has already endured seven gruelling cycles of chemotherapy and still faces a stem cell transplant and four weeks of radiotherapy.

If he’s then given the all clear, a vaccine trial in New York is the family’s only hope of stopping the disease from returning.

Victoria, 33, said: “When they told us Calum had cancer, we just crumbled. Our whole world just stopped.

“The first thing that goes through your head is, ‘is he going to die? He’s only four. Are we going to lose our boy?’

“It was total panic. Seeing him, you just wish it wasn’t real. There are times I just sit and cry and pray it’s been a mistake but this is our reality.

“It’s so difficult to think about the worst case which is that we could lose him because the thought of that is just unbearable. I can’t imagine not having him here but it is a very realistic option that he might not be.

“This cancer is so aggressive they don’t even call it being in remission because it is so likely to come back.

“So that’s why we are doing everything we can to give him the best possible chance.”

The US drugs trial is being run at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre and the vaccine helps train the immune system to identify and destroy neuroblastoma cells.

The treatment costs around £250,000 and will involve seven trips to New York in a year. The family have already managed to raise more than £60,000 themselves.

Victoria has already gone through losing her mum Bridget to leukaemia when she was just eight years old.

She said: “I think of the pain she must have felt but had to carry on and it’s similar to how I feel with Calum.

“I just want to curl up and cry that this is happening to him but it won’t change it and it won’t help him.

“From what happened with my mum, I know the pain of loss. I know what it’s been like without her and I can’t bear to think I’ll have to go through life without Calum.

“I just hate that I am now suffering this agony again. I look at my little boy and I can’t make him better. There are no words for that as a parent.”

The little boy was yesterday admitted to Kilmarnock’s Crosshouse hospital after his temperature spiked and he is being treated with antibiotics and steroids.

The family’s heartbreak can be traced back to January when Calum got chickenpox but when symptoms persisted his GP said it was a post-viral infection linked to shingles.

As his condition worsened he was referred for an MRI scan which revealed a tumour in his adrenal gland, close to the spinal cord and tests revealed he had Neuroblastoma.

His parents, who also have a five month old daughter Emily, were told Calum’s cancer was stage M – where the disease had spread to other parts of the body.

Victoria said: “He had chicken pox first and hadn’t gotten any better. His body was still really sore.

“The GP who initially thought it was a side effect of shingles from having chickenpox.

“But a few weeks later he started getting really high temperatures and night sweats so we referred to the hospital and they found the tumour.

“We found out about the tumour when we had Calum sitting with us.

“At this point he was in so much pain we were holding his body to comfort him so when the consultant asked us to leave the ward and go into a side room he became so upset.

“So we carried him through and sat there. We knew something bad was coming. But the news just devastated us.

“They said it was a cancerous tumour and could see it had spread throughout his bones.

“They did an MRI, bone marrow sample and other tests. They knew it was highly likely it was neuroblastoma but it took a week to get the official results.

“That week was horrific as I just kept Googling it and just kept crying. I read about the survival rate but Andy didn’t want to know anything yet so I kept it to myself.

“Over the next few days I had to tell him what I’d read and it was horrible.”

After Calum finishes treatment at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth hospital, docters will decided on surgery to remove the tumour and only then could he be considered for the trial and fly to America.

Victoria said: “Calum has one more cycle of chemo left to go.

“After that the surgeons will decide if they can remove the cycle and then high dose chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and radiotherapy.

“Because he is so small they don’t think he will lie still so for the radiotherapy he will require a general anaesthetic Monday to Friday for the full four weeks which is going to be very difficult.”

Victoria said: “Before he was ill Calum was just a happy, normal little boy. He loved being with his family, playing with his friends, he liked football and soft play. He was always playing and giggling.

“He is obsessed with Pokémon and won’t let us put any clothes on him now that are not Pokémon.

“He’s very strong willed and determined and the nurses say that will stand him in good stead as he goes through this. He isn’t going to just take this, he is going to give this a good go.”

Thousands of pounds have already been raised for Calum including at Glasgow boxing institution, St Andrews Sporting Club where the audience at the last show of the season next month will be asked to help out.

Scots boxing legend Willie Limond has also offered memorabilia for auction.

**To donate to the fundraising campaign for Calum, visit

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