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How brave Lincolnshire two-year-old Joseph Brown is battling leukaemia...

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: October 20, 2012

  • Kimberley Rice and David Brown, left with their children Jacob, four months old, and Joseph, 2. Pictures: John Jenkins

  • Joseph playing in the garden

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Like so many little boys, Joseph Brown is mad about Fireman Sam and Thomas the Tank Engine.

He loves to watch horses passing by his home in Fiskerton, or kick a football about in the garden. He wants to be a fireman when he grows up.

The two-and-a-half-year-old has a smile that brings joy to everyone in his world.

Yet such a picture of happiness is tinged with great anxiety.

Joseph is battling acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and faces ongoing treatment up to the age of five or six.

The diagnosis came in April this year, as mum Kim Rice, 26, was heavily pregnant with Jacob, who is now four months old.

Joseph has a 98 per cent survival rate. In adults it is about 30 per cent.

"The week before Joseph's birthday in February he spiked a very high temperature of about 41C and we rushed him to A&E," said Miss Rice, a former oncology pre-treatment clerk at Lincoln County Hospital.

"They said it was a viral infection but I struggled to keep the temperature down.

"They gave us antibiotics and we were fighting the temperature over the next ten weeks.

"We took him to his first football lesson at the Fun Farm on April 21 and we noticed he was limping.

"We thought: 'professional footballer, here we come.'.

"But he started complaining and it was unusual for him to complain."

Joseph was then taken back to casualty and tests were done.

"They said they had found some white cells in the blood that were possibly cancerous," said Miss Rice, of Ferry Road, Fiskerton.

"We were transferred to the Queen's Medical Centre, in Nottingham, where a bone marrow sample was taken and Joseph was diagnosed with leukaemia on April 26.

"When I originally got the bit about the white cells I was a bit of a mess.

"Then came the diagnosis. It was a case of just plod on, get on with it. It was not a case of me crying myself to sleep, until his hair fell out."

About 450 children in the UK are diagnosed with the same condition each year.

Joseph's dad David Brown, 38, who works in food hygiene at Laurens Patisseries, in Newark, said: "It was a massive blow, you're so numb inside.

"Joseph's treatment includes chemotherapy, steroids, antibiotics, anti-sickness syrup and painkillers.

"We have to be so clean with everything.

"Even if we get a cold we cannot be around him because it will affect him ten times as worse as others.

"There are side effects to the treatment as well: mood changes and constipation. His mobility is affected.

"What has surprised us is the dedication of the medical staff who just do their day-to-day jobs caring for children like Joseph."

Miss Rice said Joseph's prognosis gives them some comfort.

"But there's always that niggling two per cent," she said.

"From next week he has 164 weeks of treatment left. He will be five or six when he finishes.

"If other families find themselves in our position, I would say the best thing they could do is talk to people.

"Speak to your parents, speak to the support workers.

"I would urge everyone to help people with leukaemia by donating blood and platelets and getting on the bone marrow register."

The couple are organising a charity event at Fiskerton Village Hall from 12.30pm on December 8.

The day is in aid of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and E38, the children's oncology ward at the QMC, which the hospital wants to refurbish. Call Kim Rice on 01522 751205 or 07891135347.

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