Saturday 21 October 2017

UK politician Nick Clegg and wife Miriam reveal their teenage son has battled cancer

Nick Clegg and wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez
Nick Clegg and wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez

Danny Boyle

Nick Clegg, the former leader of the UK Liberal Democrat's party, and his wife Miriam have revealed their teenage son's battle with blood cancer.

The couple today disclosed that 14-year-old Antonio was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma - a rare form of the disease - in September last year.

After several months of chemotherapy, their eldest son - now 15 - has now been given the all-clear.

Mr Clegg, the former deputy prime minister, and his wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, told how having to tell Antonio that he had blood cancer was one of the "toughest things".

The youngster had found a small, painless lump in his neck and tests found he also had lymphoma across his chest.

After receiving treatment on the NHS at University College Hospital in London, including four monthly cycles of chemotherapy and heavy steroids, he is in remission having suffered severe side effects including hair loss, vomiting and fatigue.

Speaking on ITV's Lorraine show on Wednesday morning, his mother said: "We dealt with it by carrying on and trying to keep things as close to the routine that we had beforehand and also being very open.

"The day that he was told, and I think that probably us telling him is one of the toughest things that we have ever done, the following day he went to school, he stood up and he told everybody 'I have cancer'.

"That's the way he dealt with it but other children and other families deal with it in a different way, you have to find your way."

Mr Clegg said: "His lymphoma was all over his chest and his neck and he gets tested every three months, I think for a couple of years, so there is always a slight spike of anxiety with us every three months but basically he is on the road to recovery.

"Interestingly the thing he was most concerned about was sort of falling behind his classmates. His anxiety was more about keeping up with his classmates, keeping up at school. So it was very impressive actually."

He added: "You have this almost physical wish to try and take it off your kid and take it yourself.

"You very quickly move from the shock, to trying to support your child as they’re battling through this very heavy treatment."

Mr Clegg said the couple's other children, Alberto and Miguel, had taken the news well.

"Once they heard from us that he will be OK, again they are just so, so practical - just 'OK then'," he said.

The couple are raising awareness of the charity Bloodwise, which will launch a report on Wednesday urging more research into less toxic treatments for children with cancer.

His wife said: "(With) chemotherapy they poison your body so that you can get cured and it's a shock to see it happen.

"We do realise how incredibly lucky we are both with the fact that the treatment has worked and how well he seems."

The charity said blood cancer is the most common among children and young people, with more than 1,100 of those under 24 diagnosed in the UK every year.

Writing a joint article for Bloodwise, the couple said: "Like all parents who have a child diagnosed with cancer, our first reaction was an overwhelming, if irrational, wish to take the cancer away from him and take it on ourselves.

"Antonio had four monthly cycles of chemotherapy, undertook a course of very heavy steroids and was prescribed a barrage of medication including antibiotics and pills to tackle nausea.

"At one point his treatment meant he was taking over 20 tablets per day. The side effects that he experienced were what you would expect, including complete hair loss, vomiting and extreme tiredness.

"At one point he was neutropenic, meaning that his body had no defences against possible infection.

"But by the end, the treatment appears to have had exactly the effect we hoped for: Antonio is free of cancer, and his regular three-monthly checks have detected no return of the disease."

They added: "We know how lucky our family has been. The experience of being a cancer patient changes a person forever, even if they make a full recovery.

"We are immensely grateful to everyone who helped Antonio. That is why we are proud to support the work of Bloodwise."

Dr Alasdair Rankin, director of research at Bloodwise, said: "The reality is that one in five children diagnosed with the most common type of leukaemia still do not survive, and that those who do often experience devastating side effects both during and after treatment.

"This is simply not good enough. We need to save every child's life, make the treatment process much kinder and give them the life they would have had without cancer."

Telegraph.co.uk

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