Brave Brennan inspires charity effort
For the past two years, brave Brennan Watkins has spent almost as much time in hospitals battling a rare form of leukaemia as he has in school.
The five-year-old has completed 21 of 26 months of chemotherapy treatment since his diagnosis in April 2016.
He is now in remission and enjoying the simple joys of being a schoolboy.
His family and friends will gather next month to celebrate his courage by holding a Team Brennan St Baldrick's party that they hope will raise $100,000 for childhood cancer research.
They have already raised more than $35,000 since unveiling their fundraising plans a week ago and Brennan's mother, Denise, is preparing to join several others in having her own locks cut off at the event.
She told The Royal Gazette: “The goal of the March 10 event is to celebrate Brennan's bravery and strength through this journey. I am proud of his bravery with all that he continues to endure, without complaint. I am amazed by his ability to articulate to his clinical team with poise and maturity. I am grateful that he is my hero.
“As a family, we continue to be humbled by the never-ending love, support and generosity of family, friends, colleagues, clinicians and even those we have not met.”
Brennan was just 3 when high-risk B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia was diagnosed on April 14, 2016.
He and his family were taken by air ambulance to Boston Children's Hospital just 12 hours later and Brennan had started chemotherapy within hours of his arrival in the US.
Ms Watkins said: “That 22 hours from diagnosis to first treatment started a journey that continues for our family. Brennan is in remission and has completed 21 of 26 months of chemotherapy to keep him in remission.
“An early, clear memory in the emergency room in Boston, in the haze of our worry, confusion, and sadness was the informed consent process. The doctor took out a three-ring binder and began reviewing the stacks of informed consents.
“He needed to educate us and get our approval on the benefits, risks and side-effects of the medication and treatments needed to save Brennan's life.
“We quickly learnt that the very treatment meant to save Brennan could harm him in the future. This was the first time that I gave serious thought to childhood cancer research.”
The latest research in North America shows that 43 children are diagnosed every day with cancer and that one out of five will not survive. Only 4 per cent of US national cancer funding is dedicated to research work on cancer in children.
The US-founded St Baldrick's Foundation is dedicated to childhood cancer research and has raised $232 million since 2005.
Ms Watkins says she will be shaving her head on March 10 to raise awareness and funds to “develop effective and less toxic treatments and cures for childhood cancer”.
She added: “We are always asked, ‘what can I do to help?' and now we have a clear answer. We are supporting the St Baldrick's Foundation and asking everyone to join us in helping to conquer childhood cancer.
“Bermuda receives the benefits of St Baldrick's mission in two ways. As we do not have a paediatric oncology centre, all children must receive care off island.
“Often this care is at a facility that receives direct donations from St Baldrick's, such as Boston Children's Hospital where Brennan was treated.
“St Baldrick's also funds the Sun Smart programme that is provided by Bermuda Cancer & Health.”
• To make a donation to Team Brennan's St Baldrick's fundraiser go to: http://bit.ly/2FDgO9q