Oliver Stephenson, 5, can start £210,000 pioneering treatment after neuroblastoma surgery
A cancer-stricken boy from Ackworth who hit headlines after being forced to isolate in hospital with his dad for nearly two months has finally been given the all clear by doctors.
The family of Oliver Stephenson, five, say they fell like they have 'won the lottery' as the youngster can now start pioneering £210,000 treatment to prevent it from returning.
Brave Oliver was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in January 2020 and doctors soon discovered the disease had spread to his skull, eye sockets and bone marrow.
The youngster underwent chemotherapy, surgery, stem cell treatment and a bone marrow transplant before receiving the incredible news he’s now in remission on Friday.
This major development means Oliver will now be able to travel to America for a pioneering clinical trial vaccine called bivalent, which is hoped will prevent the disease from returning.
The treatment, which costs £210,000 and is carried out in New York, will be paid for from crowdfunding pages set up to support the schoolboy which raised a staggering £300,000.
Oliver’s mum, Laura, 35, said she is “overwhelmed” at the news and that the cash left over after paying for the vaccine will be spent on several journeys between the UK and US.
She added: “We’re absolutely ecstatic. When I heard Oliver got the all-clear my stomach did a flip.
“It was a really emotional and overwhelming moment, I feel like I walked around in a daze for the rest of the day.
“It is honestly better than winning the lottery.
“After everything he has been through this is a massive moment, it means we can start the next stage of the journey.”
Oliver’s mum, Laura, and dad, James Stephenson, 33, received the wonderful news last week after their lad finished immunotherapy and subsequent tests showed no signs of cancer.
They told Oliver and his brother Alfie, three, on Friday evening after picking him from school and sitting down for a celebratory dinner.
Laura said: “I asked Oliver, ‘do you know why we are celebrating?’ And he said he thought it was because of the Easter holidays, as he had just broken up from school.
“I told him, ‘mummy and daddy went to the hospital today, we saw your doctor and she said you’re better’.
“He understands he was ill but he’s so young that he just took the news in his stride, although he was happy to hear that he only needs to take one medicine a day now.”
She added: “We didn’t know for sure what the doctor would say before the meeting but we were hoping for good news after seeing how much Oliver had improved.
“He’s looking really well, he’s growing loads and he’s really active again, so we did have an inkling he was on track.
“It’s amazing to see how far Oliver has come, he’s doing so well.”
The Stephensons will travel across to the States later this year to begin the bivalent treatment, which will require five trips across the pond and seven vaccines in 12 months.
If it works, the treatment at New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, will train Oliver's immune system to identify and destroy neuroblastoma cells lurking in his body.
It’s hoped this will prevent a relapse.
Laura said: "It is a clinical trial so we don't know what will happen.
"But 60% of people who recovered from neuroblastoma end up relapsing, so we want to everything we can to stop that happening to Oliver."
In January last year, Oliver was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare cancer originating from immature nerve cells that affects only 100 children annually.
The Stephenson family's ordeal was 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.
Crowdfunding pages were set up to help the family pay for treatment once options on the NHS were exhausted, as neuroblastoma has a significant chance of returning.
The Stephenson’s watched on in amazement as the total sums raised shot up day after day - eventually reaching more than £300,000.
Laura 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.”
The family say some of the crowdfunded cash, which exceeds what Oliver needs, has already been sent to another youngster battling cancer.
Laura said her boy’s treatment will begin this year, adding: “Now we can prepare for the next step of our journey.”
Anyone who would like to donate can visit: https://www.solvingkidscancer.org.uk/appeal/oliverstephenson