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Dad tells of family’s relief as young son ‘dodges bullet'

BBC WM breakfast host Phil Upton has revealed how he coped with learning about the results of cancer tests on his son.

BBC WM breakfast host Phil Upton has revealed how he coped with learning about the results of cancer tests on his son.

He said ten-year-old James had ‘dodged a bullet’ after a lump on his chest proved to be benign, but would now face a lengthy course of strong antibiotics.

A tireless children’s charity campaigner who helped BBC WM to raise more than £1 million for the Kidney Kids Appeal at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Phil said: “Christmas has come early for us.”

He then asked everyone to pray for all of the other youngsters who will spend their Christmas at Birmingham Children’s Hospital having chemotherapy.

In a moving personal account of his emotional rollercoaster during the last fortnight, Phil told listeners how James could have been faced with beginning a course of chemotherapy if the worst had happened.

“The doctors suspected something called Ewings Sarcoma, the treatment for which is chemotherapy, the chances of survival, 75 per cent,” said Phil, aged 45.

“On Friday lunchtime, with trepidation and our lives in our hearts, we went into the Children’s Hospital.

“You can imagine what the last couple of weeks have been like.

“I’ve spent the last couple of weeks repeatedly looking at my son and wondering if we would again go on holiday, if we would again ride our bikes, all the normal things dads hope for their sons.

“At that moment when we were summoned in I looked at him and wondered if this was the last time I would see him as a normal child.

“How much longer would he look the way he looked?

“How much would the chemo affect him?

“How much could it take from him? Would it be the last time I would see him as a normal child?”

Phil said he then made a note of the time – 12.34pm.

“I thought: ‘Is this the moment our lives could be about to change?

“We sat down with his consultant, a lovely man, Dr Bruce Morland, and he started by saying: ‘Uptons’, he said: ‘Your Christmas has come early. I’m delighted to say, the biopsy is back and it’s not cancerous’.

“You can imagine our relief, how happy we were to hear that.

“Don’t get me wrong, James is still poorly.

“He has a bone disease, called LCH, and he’s going to need some very strong antibiotics.

“Tt may be a couple or three months before he is completely better.

“And LCH is something that can return, repeatedly, and if it does, they may yet decide to use chemotherapy.

“But until then, he’s a young man who has dodged a bullet.

“I am left feeling very, very grateful.”

Phil said he had prayed every night for a fortnight and was grateful for the comfort of his listeners and of the ‘great staff of the Birmingham Children’s Hospital’.

“I have worked for four or five radio stations here in the West Midlands and I have never, never felt as close to my audience as I do here.

“Had it been bad news on Friday, it would have been some small comfort to know that the words and messages you’ve given us would have embattled us for what was to come.

“But for now, I’d like us to think about all those other children and families whose Christmases will not be as fortunate as ours.

“For every happy story like my son, there are children – and I know because I saw them when I walked through the oncology department on Friday – children who are linked up to chemotherapy drips... and whose daily fight just to live goes on through Christmas.

“What 2012 can they plan for? What kind of New Year dare they think about?

“You mention in many of your messages your prayers for me and my family.

“Can I ask you all to keep those prayers going and offer them now on behalf of those children who aren’t as lucky as my own son.”



Cathrina Hulse
Multimedia Journalist
Annette Belcher
Multimedia Journalist
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