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Barnaby Kellaway & Samantha Gildea

Little boy battling rare cancer gets 'best Christmas present ever' as £270,000 raised for pioneering treatment in USA

The mum of a cancer-stricken little boy has received the "best Christmas present ever" after raising a whopping £270,000 to pay for pioneering treatment in the US.

Laura Stephenson's adorable four-year-old son Oliver was diagnosed in January with neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer that originates from immature nerve cells.

The cancer, which affects only 100 children in the UK each year, spread to Oliver's skull, eye sockets and bone marrow - leaving the Stephenson family desperate for help.

A crowdfunding page was set up on their behalf to offer financial support as and when it was be needed, which has now accumulated a staggering £269,741.

Since January Oliver, from Ackworth in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, has undergone chemotherapy, surgery, stem cell treatment and a bone marrow transplant.

Laura, 35, said her boy is now "doing well" and that he should be able to travel to New York next year to have a treatment aimed at preventing the cancer returning.

The mum-of-two said: "The incredible support and donations not just from our friends and family but around the world has been overwhelming.

"We are so grateful to everyone who has helped."

She added: "It's been a really difficult year for us and back in January Oliver's prognosis wasn't good at all.

"But he has battled through everything is doing well now, he's fit and strong and even back at school.

"Due to that we can properly start thinking about going to America next year for further treatment, which is a huge and exciting step.

"It's the best Christmas present ever."

Oliver Stephenson, 4, with parents James, 32, and Laura, 34, at home in Ackworth, Wakefield (© SWNS)

The family, including dad James, 33, and brother Alfie, three, hope Oliver will be able to travel to the States when he finishes immunotherapy in this country and is officially disease free.

Laura said they hope to get the all clear in March and will look to travel to America as soon as possible afterwards.

The treatment, at New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, is a clinical trial vaccine called bivalent.

If it works, the vaccine will train Oliver's immune system to identify and destroy neuroblastoma cells lurking in his body, thereby preventing a relapse.

The treatment lasts 12 months, costs £210,000 and would require Oliver to travel between the US and Britain seven times.

The crowdfunding page asked for £230,000 to cover travel costs but actually ended up exceeding the goal by £40,000.

Laura said: "It is a clinical trial so we don't know what will happen.

Oliver's rare form of cancer affects only 100 children in the UK each year (© Laura Stephenson / SWNS)

"But 60% of people who recovered from neuroblastoma end up relapsing, so we want to everything we can to stop that happening to Oliver."

The Stephenson family's ordeal this year has been worsened by the pandemic, which meant Oliver and James had to isolate in together in hospital while the youngster had chemotherapy.

In total they spent seven weeks over April, May and June living in the same 15sqft room at Leeds General Infirmary.

James was at his son's bedside throughout but Laura and Alfie were unable to visit due to restrictions and had to make do with video calls.

An emotional video captured the family's reunion on June 12.

Laura said: "Oliver's time in hospital was really hard and frustrating for the entire family, including us back at home.

"Seeing how poorly he was during chats over FaceTime was heart-breaking, I just wanted to give him a big cuddle.

"He really wanted to see his mum."

She added: "It's amazing to see how much he has improved, he's doing really well.

"Hopefully we will get over to America for the treatment and things will get even better for Oliver."

Anyone who would like to donate can visit:

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