This is the little boy who has managed to beat more than a HUNDRED cancer tumours
in his eyes.
Little Ernie Brown is just four years old, yet during his short life he has endured endless rounds of chemotherapy treatment
to try and beat his rare cancer.
So far he has managed to fight off more than a hundred tumours in his eyes that have threatened to take his sight and his life.
Amazingly, not only has he beat the tumours, but doctors have also managed to save most of his sight too.
His relieved parents have hailed his survival as a miracle, and have put it down to their son's incredible fighting spirit.
Ernie's mum Lisa, 37, a nurse, says: "Ernie has been so brave and we are so proud of him for doing so well.It is hard to believe that he has fought off so many tumours like this. He's only four years old, yet he has beaten cancer so many times already. He's a real little fighter."
Ernie was diagnosed with retinoblastoma
, a rare childhood cancer that mainly affects chilldren under the age of five, when he was just three months old. His mum had taken him to the doctors when she believed that he couldn't see properly.
Lisa, who lives with her husband Andy, 40, a paramedic, and their older son Stanley, seven, in Saffron Walden, Essex, says: "From his birth I noticed that he wasn't opening his eyes properly, and then when Ernie was a few months old, I noticed that he wasn't focusing properly when I held him just a few inches away from me.
Other children of his age were making eye contact so I knew that something wasn't quite right.
The doctor referred Ernie to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge for further tests, and specialists there made a shocking discovery. Ernie had a large cancerous tumour and other smaller tumours behind both of his eyes.
"We were devastated. We had thought that Ernie may be blind and we had accepted that. We thought we could deal with anything, as long as it wasn't cancer," says Lisa.
When we were told that it was - and he already had seven tumours behind his eyes, it was as though our world had fallen apart. We thought we were going to lose our precious son.
Tests showed that the type of cancer that Ernie had was genetic, but there was no history of it in either side of the family, so the couple couldn't understand where it had come from.
"The doctors said that it was a genetic mistake which had caused Ernie's cancer, but it will now be passed down his family line," explains Lisa.
Ernie began an intensive course of chemotherapy treatment in November 2007, that finished in February the following year.
The tumours were lasered away prior to the treatment starting, but then doctors discovered another two tumours during his chemotherapy, and another four appeared after the treatment finished.
"The doctors just kept finding more and more tumours when he went for check ups. It was devastating. When he had been diagnosed with seven tumours at the beginning we thought it couldn't get any worse, but then more started appearing," says Lisa.
"Luckily because they were caught early enough, they managed to treat them."
When he was nine months old, he'd already beaten 13 tumours, and there was no sign of any others appearing. But just before his second birthday tests showed more had grown.
"It was devastating," says Lisa.
We went for the check up expecting good news, but it showed there were more tumours.
Ernie had to start more chemotherapy and had a radioactive plaque sewn onto his eye to deliver radiation directly onto the tumours.They were appearing at such a rate that he had to have operations every three months to try and save him.
He has now beaten more than a hundred tumours, and the last check up he had in February was all clear.
To celebrate his achievements, Ernie was recently granted a wish to sit in the driver's seat of a steam train, organised by the Make A Wish Foundation.
"Hopefully that is it now, and no more tumours will appear. His left vision is impaired and he has to wear glasses, but it is amazing how he is done, considering how many tumours he has fought," says his proud mum.
"We feel very lucky that he's done so well. When he was first diagnosed we thought we were going to lose him, but he has proved us all wrong and he's fought so hard."
For more information on retinoblastoma, contact the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust at Chect.org.uk.
Words: Lucy Laing at Worldwide Features
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