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Daily Record
Daily Record
Ian Bunting

Lanarkshire family trying to raise £250k to send four-year-old boy with rare form of cancer to America for vaccine trial

The Lanarkshire family of a brave four-year-old boy battling a rare form of cancer are trying to raise £250,000 to send him to America to get him on a vaccine trial that would decrease the chances of his illness relapsing.

Young Calum Rae was diagnosed with stage M high-risk Neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer with a high chance of reoccurrence which only 100 kids a year in the UK suffer from, on March 1 after initial chickenpox symptoms failed to clear up.

Calum has had eight cycles of chemo since then and his parents, Victoria MacDonald, 33, and Andrew Rae, 35, are now fundraising to send their son to a vaccine trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York.

The vaccine hopes to train the immune system to identify and destroy neuroblastoma cells and costs £250,000 as it involves seven trips to New York in a year.

So far, the family’s fundraising campaign has collected nearly £50,000.

Although Calum and his parents now live in Troon, his dad Andrew is from Airdrie and the family used to stay in the town, while other loved ones and friends still living in Airdrie are doing their bit to get the youngster to the States.

Former Tollbrae Primary and Airdrie Academy pupil Andrew told Lanarkshire Live : “Calum’s treatment with the NHS will last for between 12 and 14 months and we can’t thank the NHS staff enough as they have been first class.

“They will basically treat him until there is no sign of the disease but M high-risk Neuroblastoma has a high relapse rate. Thirty years ago the survival rate was zero per cent and now it’s 40 or 50 per cent.

“The vaccine trial aims to increase the survival rate and decreases the relapse rate so we want to do anything we can to help Calum.

“We want to see our son grow up and have a future.”

Calum had chickenpox in January and when symptoms persisted his GP said it was a post-viral infection linked to shingles.

But the symptoms got worse and the family were devastated to be told it was Stage M high-risk Neuroblastoma.

Calum will need surgery to remove a tumour in his adrenal gland, close to the spinal cord, before he can go to America.

Mum Victoria said: “It’s so sad, it was just a total shock.

“He got unwell at the start of January with chickenpox but it just didn’t go away.

“The symptoms were like a condition linked to shingles – he was still lethargic and had leg pain and complained his body was sore, while he also has a complete loss of appetite.

“After about a month he had really high temperature fluctuations and night sweats.

“We thought it was post-herpetic neuralgia, a side effect most common with shingles, but when other ones started coming on we thought it was something else.

“The GP sent us to hospital as it wasn’t going away and they did an MRI.

“It was horrible. The type of cancer is really aggressive and the survival rate in five years is 40 per cent or 50 per cent.

“We are trying to do normal things and to stay positive.”

As well as looking after Calum, Victoria and Andy have a five-month-old baby, Emily.

The family have not yet applied for the vaccine trial as Calum’s NHS treatment needs to finish first.

Victoria explained: “We are keen to do anything we can to get the vaccine.

“He has to be disease-free first. It is in trial stages but it is another thing to try and give him the best chance.

“If we didn’t try it would just eat us alive.”

Dad Andrew, an architect, is “thrilled” with how the fundraising effort is going thus far.

He added: “We have been really overwhelmed by the kindness of everyone who has donated to the campaign.

“I have a network in Airdrie and Victoria has one in Ayrshire who are all branching out to help.

“My friends in Airdrie have been organising events like race nights and hill climbs and all of our family members have been providing wonderful support.”

Calum’s aunt Vivienne Rae, who lives in Airdrie, said: “My nephew is a wonderful wee boy and we are desperate to get him the help he needs.

“The family are all involved in fundraising and the Four Isles mothers’ and toddlers’ group I attend kindly donated £100, for which I can’t thank them enough.

“We all love Calum so very much.”

To donate to the fundraising campaign for Calum, head online.

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