RUFUS Palmer from Aberystwyth has made an “excellent recovery” after a stem cell transplant earlier this year, but “there could be a lot more to come” for the eight-year-old and his family.
Rufus underwent a stem cell transplant in February after relapsing with leukaemia in November last year. After spending just under four months in Bristol and Cardiff, the Palmer family are now home as Rufus continues to recover.
But it’s still early days, and Rosie Palmer, Rufus’ mum, is reluctant to be optimistic.
“The first time around I had a lot more optimism than I do now, because we hadn’t been hit with a relapse. That part of our lives, in November, was so traumatic. It’s incredibly difficult to put aside and forget about,” she said.
“From an outsider’s perspective it looks like Rufus is done, he’s recovered. But we’re still really in the thick of it. He’s six months post-transplant; it is considered early days.
“He’s monitored monthly, then once he hits a year post-transplant, it will be every three months. After two years, things start to calm down, unless there’s anything outstanding.
“There hasn’t been enough time to see the effects of the radiotherapy yet. That could come when he’s a teenager. There’s a few medications he will be on for the rest of his life. There could be a lot more to come.”
As part of the treatment, Rufus had bone marrow infused through a Hickman line. He also had a “brutal week” beforehand in preparation, undergoing eight “relentless” doses of radiotherapy and a week’s worth of high-dose chemotherapy to “wipe out any residual cancer and empty his body completely of bone marrow”.
Rosie said: “He’s had tests each month and it says the donor marrow is dominant in his body - which is really good. He did get very ill in May. He suddenly really deteriorated over night. He had PRES syndrome, which is inflammation of the brain and the spinal cord. He had an MRI and he had spots of injury across his brain. It caused him to have seizures. Then they found out he had meningitis on top of that.”
After being discharged from hospital in Bristol, the family stayed in local accommodation and Rufus’ brother, Noah, was able to join them.
They were then moved to Cardiff for their final week, before coming home on 7 June, where Rufus has made an “excellent recovery”.
“We settled back home, and he continued to get better from there,” said Rosie.
“It’s given him a new lease of life. He’s in his own home. He started eating again, his energy levels picked up, he started to not want to use his wheelchair anymore.”
So far, 482 people have registered as stem cell donors with DKMS, but Rosie is encouraging others to follow suit.
“Many children have relapsed with their leukaemia this year and are looking for donors. It’s so important to keep up the momentum and save lives.”
To register as a donor, go to www.dkms.org.uk/get-involved/virtual-drives/rufus