This Christmas is going to be the ‘best one ever’ for a brave Dundee schoolboy and his family.
Garvie Winter was just seven-years-old when he was forced to spend Christmas in hospital after being diagnosed with leukaemia.
Yesterday, after a roller-coaster three years, during which mum Haley admitted she feared she could lose her son on several occasions, Garvie was able to ring a bell at Ninewells Hospital to mark the end of his chemotherapy.
Haley said: “This is a hugely important day for Garvie and for all of us. Garvie had his last dose of chemo on November 9.
“I pray he never has to get a drop of chemo ever again. My heart is bursting with pride.
“I can’t wait for Covid-19 to be over so we can have the biggest party ever for him
“I’m the happiest mum in the world. I can’t wipe this smile off my face. I have waited a lifetime to hear this, but I’m scared at the same time.”
Garvie first began to feel unwell during the weekend of October 21-22 in 2017, and seemed to be sleeping a lot.
Within days, he was diagnosed with leukaemia and has been undergoing treatment ever since.
However, the treatment failed, despite Haley being advised the therapy worked in 98% of cases.
Haley said: “We had no idea at the time why it didn’t work for Garvie, but we subsequently discovered that Garvie’s cancer was unique.
“Although he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), Garvie’s form of the illness turned out to be very rare and very complicated.
“Doctors all over the world had meetings about Garvie and his type of leukaemia and most of them admitted they had never come across a case like this.”
After the first treatment failed, Garvie underwent an intensive three to four-week course of chemotherapy in Edinburgh, which resulted in him being in hospital over Christmas that year.
Over the following three years Garvie underwent hours and hours of chemotherapy, spent a total of more than two years in hospital, and underwent various treatments as doctors tried to find a cure.
Haley said: “I have honestly lost count of the amount of hours of chemotherapy that Garvie has had and the number of chemotherapy tablets he has had to take.”
‘I really believed that day that he was going to die’
Haley said there have been times she definitely feared that Garvie wasn’t going to survive.
She said: “In April 2018 he became very unwell in hospital in Glasgow when his heart rate went down to only 49. I really believed that day that he was going to die. It was so scary.”
She and the doctors considered various options for Garvie, including a bone marrow transplant which prompted an appeal for a donor.
However, Garvie never got a transplant because doctors feared the cancer in his bone marrow was too bad and the procedure would be too dangerous for him.
Hayley also looked at taking him to America and Italy for what she hoped would be ground-breaking treatment.
Throughout all his treatment in Scotland, Garvie had days when he became very sick.
He lost his hair four times and suffered horrible side effects from chemotherapy. He also lost around three years of school.
Haley said that Garvie continued to fight but his tests results remained stubbornly fixed.
On October 12 this year, results from further bone marrow tests were exactly the same as they had been two years and nine months ago.
Haley said: “At that time Garvie’s Edinburgh doctor decided to ask at a meeting of doctors when his chemotherapy could end because his body had taken so much.
“Initially, we thought it would be next year but then last month we could told his last dose would be in November.”
Haley said that Garvie still had cancer in his bone marrow but the levels were just the same.
She said: “It has got no better and no worse. Perhaps it will never change. It’s really complicated but the doctors have told me that this just might be Garvie’s genes.
“He will still need to go to hospital and get blood checks and bone marrow checks for the next five years so the worry won’t end but there is going to be no more treatment and we are very positive and optimistic about his future.
“We are all so excited, Garvie included, and this is going to be the best Christmas ever. We can’t wait.”