A 14-year-old cricket star is undergoing gruelling chemotherapy after being diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer.
Brave Miles Stockwell, a Year 9 pupil at Simon Langton Grammar School in Canterbury, is being treated at University College London Hospital (UCLH) after receiving the devastating diagnosis last month.
Despite this, he has managed to raised thousands of pounds to help other cancer patients, with a fundraiser that has gained the support of top England cricket stars Joe Denly and Rob Key.
The athletic youngster from Herne Bay began experiencing pain in his left knee about four or five months ago.
His mum took him to the GP, but his symptoms were initially put down to growing pains or a sports injury.
A natural sportsman, Miles plays cricket for Whitstable Cricket Club’s U15s, football for Whitstable Town FC, and played roller hockey for Herne Bay for 10 years.
His mum, Susan Luckhurst, recalls: “He’d lost a little bit of weight, but he was growing and changing.
“He was having trouble sleeping, but we put that down to hormones.”
But after Miles spent October half-term “sleeping all the time” and his pain persisted, his mum took him back to the GP.
“It was beyond that teenage boy sleeping,” she explained. “I said ‘look I really really feel something’s not right here’.”
Miles was given an x-ray on November 3, and within hours his family was given the earth-shattering news that he had an aggressive osteosarcoma in his leg.
The “extensive” tumour originated in his knee and has spread to his femur.
“It was devastating,” said Miss Luckhurst. “Miles’ whole life changed on that day.”
Miles is now on a gruelling treatment plan to help fight the cancer. He is nearing the end of his first of six five-week chemotherapy courses, and he is expected to undergo surgery in the new year.
“We don’t know what that surgery’s going to be yet until we see how the tumour’s reacted to the treatment,” said his mum.
“Possibilities are a titanium rod, other possibilities are amputation.
"So there’s a lot of uncertainty.
“Hopefully by June or July we’ll be focusing on his recovery and walking again.”
As well his life-changing diagnosis, Miles is also coming to terms with changes such as weight loss and hair loss, and not seeing his friends.
“Because of the nature of his cancer, he’s immobile at the moment,” added Miss Luckhurst.
“For someone who was playing sport most nights after school and at weekends, it’s been a huge and really difficult change.”
But his mum says he is coping “really well”, supported by family including his dad Tim Stockwell, older brother and sister Jake and Lauren, and his “absolutely amazing” school, friends, and sports clubs.
“I’m his mum and I can’t even imagine really what he’s going through,” said Miss Luckhurst.
“He’s a real warrior. He’s incredibly brave.
“On his good days, he’s still cheeky and he’s still laughing.”
Miles has also decided to raise money to help other people going through similar journeys.
He and his mum are staying at a UCLH facility called the Cotton Rooms, which gives patients a comfortable, homely place to stay during treatment.
He is due to go home today, for a short break from chemo.
And on Christmas Day tomorrow, he plans to shave his grandad Quentin Long’s head in aid of the UCLH charity, which funds the Cotton Rooms.
Miles has already smashed his initial £1,000 target, raising more than £4,000 in a matter of days.
His fundraiser has been shared widely by Whitstable Cricket Club, of which he is a well-loved member.
Kent and England cricket star Joe Denly has also shared it, along with Sky Sports pundit and former England and Kent cricketer Rob Key, who donated £100 and wrote: “Good luck Miles. Fight this as well as you play cricket.”
Donate to the Justgiving page here.
Bid to raise awareness
Miss Luckhurst is keen to urge other parents to be aware of cancers such as osteosarcoma.
The bone cancer mostly affects children and young adults under 20, and can develop during growth spurts that occur during puberty.
But Miss Luckhurst says before Miles’ diagnosis, she “never, never” considered her “strong, sociable, sporty boy” could have cancer.
“When you’ve got a sporty boy they do get knocks. We often put pains down to so many other things - whether it’s a sports injury, tiredness, growing pains or hormones,” she said.
“Perhaps had I been aware that bone caner was prevalent in young males like Miles I might have considered pushing that earlier.
“But I think sometimes as parents you feel like you’re over-reacting.
“I would just encourage parents to listen to their children and to go to the doctor - even if it’s just to rule it out, it’s just so important.”
For more information about bone cancer and symptoms to look out for, visit the Cancer Research website.