A West Sussex father has spoken of the ‘whirlwind’ journey his family have been on after his 23-month-old son was diagnosed with cancer.
Dexter Richardson, who turns two in July, was diagnosed with a Wilms’ kidney tumour on Wednesday, April 3, after his nursery, First Steps Childcare at Chichester College, ‘spotted a firm patch on his tummy’.
Dad Mark, who lives in Pagham with his wife Steff, daughter Darcie and Dexter said: “The nursery told us to go and get it checked out and we don’t know what might of happened if they hadn’t. We did and Dexter has been having chemotherapy since. He had major surgery a few weeks ago and the results are positive as we await for the final sign off.
“We are really thankful to the nursery. If it had been left much longer, it could have been a lot more dangerous.
“We don’t know what damage would have been done.”
Mark said Dexter was referred to cancer specialists at Southampton General Hospital, where he began chemotherapy on April 5.
He added: “Dexter had a major operation on May 16 where they cut in from side to side and removed his gut and the tumour in the kidney.
“It was a dangerous operation. If they pierced the tumour at any point, it would have automatically gone to stage three cancer.
“It is usually a nine hour operation but it was done in six.
“It’s been a whirlwind for us. The first few days were really dark and we were just thinking why us? We were thinking that it wasn’t fair. We then decided that we needed to be as positive as we could and focus on the end goal of him getting better. You have also got to use the support network around you. We’re confident that positivity breeds more positivity.”
Mark said the ‘turning point’ came when they launched the Dash4Dexter campaign, which aimed to raise £2,000 to support the Piam Brown ward at Southampton hospital. However, Mark said that, within a month, ‘well over £8,000’ has been raised.
He said: “The care he has had has been phenomenal.
“The nurses have gone above and beyond, even coming in on their day off to do chemo. The care has been out of this world. We couldn’t have asked for more.
“The response has inspired us to do more for local children and the campaign will continue to make a positive difference to others.
“We have also started to put a journal together so when Dexter’s older, he can look back on it.”
Fundraising events and how you can help
A number of fundraising events have been organised for the Dash4Dexter campaign.
Mark said there has been a horse riding event, organised by Dexter’s cousin, a superhero day at a local nursery in Fishbourne, a big team run called the Dash4Dexter, whilst they also had a team compete in the Bognor Prom 10k and London Marathon. Mark's daughter Darcie also held a cake sale at her school.
Looking forward, Mark said: “We have no plans of stopping until we have enough to buy the entire toy room wish lists for Howard ward at St Richard’s, Piam Brown and G4, ward where he had chemo and after surgery.
“We are coming to the end of our journey and we want to make a real positive difference to other local families, We want to do more for other children with cancer and the wards that have given us the incredible care. We are organising a charity football match and I am going to run the Brighton marathon next year along with a few others.”
The fundraising page also outlines plans for a charity ball, with a date to be confirmed.
Ian Sewell, a work colleague of Mark’s, ran a charity quiz night at The George and Dragon pub at North Street last night (Wednesday).
Speaking before the event, Ian said: “The event is being attended by employees of Checkatrade to raise money for our boss’s funding page. We are hoping to raise lots of money with a quiz, raffle and an auction.”
To donate, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/dash4dexter.