Cancer In Young Adults ... Through Parents’ Eyes

Narratives & Stories

Aidan's story

Aidan was still at school when diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the pelvis. This tribute to him is written by his mum.

Aidan Jude, our beloved son, wanted so very much, adored by his parents, grandparents, older sister and brother and younger sister. We were such a happy family, yet we never took it for granted, we were so grateful for our beautiful healthy children, more so when a friend’s young son, age 7 was diagnosed with neuroblastoma and died age 9, this was 11 years ago, we were so shocked, knowing that nothing could be worse than losing a child. Little did we know what life would throw at us. Aidan Jude, a beautiful baby, charming, funny toddler, walking at 10months, bright and healthy. He loved school, was never ill, always busy, wanting to learn about everything, gifted in so many ways. He was a member of the academy of gifted children, a frightening intellect, not that he gave a damn, his long hair, beautiful face, cool beyond his years, his friends used to wait for aidan to set the trends, be it jeans halfway down his backside, long, flowing hair, edgy taste in music. Always doing everything like a whirlwind, everything he decided to try, had to be full on, from acoustic guitar, passing all the grades, then electric, loud, always strapped to his back, loud punk music, unsigned bands that he downloaded to his ipod. His love for mountain biking was what really inspired him, from riding street, off road, then radical ‘dirt’ riding, flying off ramps, our house and garage always full of boys, bikes, girls just watching, laughter. Aidan lived for his biking, downhill racing was his love, he had just been sponsored to race, got all the kit, amazing downhill bike, he built all his bikes, custom made parts etc. his knowledge of bikes and building and repairing them was legendary, hence our garage having all the equipment, tools etc, he never refused to help or give advice to the huge circle of biking mates from all over the country. Mike, Aidans Dad, became a legend in the biking world, taking boys, bikes all over to the various locations, for radical riding, often to Hamsterley Forest in the north east, a favourite. Aidan’s dream was to race the world cup, ride the trails in whistler, Canada and do a degree in architecture, he would have done all those things. We never doubted it. Aidan loved snowboarding, always extreme, he lived for the thrills, the fear, he was legendary on his snowboarding trips to Canada and Italy, doing crazy ramps and 360’s off piste, his teachers used to be worried as he was always missing, then he would appear, covered in snow, through the trees, snowboard in hand, that beautiful smiley face that could melt anyone. Aidan used to say ‘I love my life’ , we loved him beyond words.

Then, in Feb 2005, after an amazing snowboarding holiday to Italy he complained of aches in his legs, nothing serious he said, remember aidan was an extreme mountain biker, used to crashing at 30 mph, he once had pot on his leg and arm at the same time, he was a toughie. The pain got worse, trips to doctors, when they learned that aidan was a mountain biker, they dismissed it as ligament damage etc, rest, paracetemol, things got worse, sleepless nights, limping so badly, visits to A & I at the local hospital, aidan was looking so thin, always very wiry, but the lack of sleep and the pain was taking its toll on our brave boy, eventually after more visits to the gp, by now the pain had moved from aidan’s leg to his foot, he said it felt like the bottom of his foot was on fire, still toughing it out, riding his bike, this time a different doctor tested aidan’s reflexes, spotted something wrong, said it was most likely nerve damage probably after a fall off his bike, at last we seemed to be getting somewhere, a visit to the consultant neurologist, by now Aidan’s pain was unbearable, we were all beside ourselves with worry, an MRI scan followed, which showed the ‘mass in Aidan’s sacrum’ we were told that our beloved son had a tumour, they were in no doubt that it was malignant. Words can never describe that day, for us, but above all for Aidan Jude, age 15, with all his life ahead of him being given that news, our hearts ached for our child. I cannot possibly put into words everything, but once we had the diagnosis, the wheels were in motion, very quickly, the trip to Birmingham, centre of excellence for bone cancers, where it was confirmed that Aidan had an osteosarcoma, which we had never heard of before. We have heard of its diagnosis too many times since with so many young people that we have met along the way, sadly nearly all of them have lost their lives too.

Aidan was treated at St James Hospital in Leeds on Ward 10T, the specialist teenage cancer ward, thankfully, the dayroom was a godsend, Aidan always refused to stay in bed, always got dressed, no matter what. He had to endure over 10months of the most aggressive treatment, for one of the most aggressive forms of teenage cancer, after 10 weeks, down to Birmingham with high hopes of the tumour having shrunk, and hopefully an operation to remove it and radical surgery etc, to find the tumour had stayed the same. We think that was the day that our hearts properly broke, although we always kept up an appearance of positivity and hope and Aidan Jude never lost his right until the end, he was always going to get back on one of his many bikes, that is what kept him going After the first lot of chemo hadn’t mad a difference, Aidan was put on another programme of chemotherapy, more gruelling than any, in fact the most that had ever been given to a young person ever, different chemicals, the treatment was dreadful, reducing a young boy, who could fly off mountains and do jumps over 20feet high on his bike to not being able to stand or use his legs, yet his spirit never faltered, he had such dignity and grace. I cannot begin to describe all the side effects of this terrible treatment that wrecks the whole body, doesn’t just target the tumour. In December 05, Aidan was so ill, ambulance, bluelights to the ward, touch and go, yes he came through, making all the doctors and nurses laugh, he was so bright and confident and witty, always kept them on their toes. In March the treatment finished, no more chemotherapy was possible, radiotherapy followed, that was unbearable to see what Aidan went through, how he toughed it out no-one knows. Aidan had so many friends who adored him, the biking world especially, he was their ‘brother’ always a thread going especially on, aidan rode for their team.

Everyone was so shocked when we lost aidan in August 06, they just assumed he would come through it like all his other falls, broken bones etc, he never ever hinted for a second that he wouldn’t. His school say that his year lost its way when Aidan couldnt attend anymore. Over 200 people attended Aidans celebration of his life, the main road was blocked, mountain bikers riding in Aidan’s memory, there were articles in the local paper, at the service, kids just got up to speak to talk about him, their memories of him, his craziness, his kindness, how much they will miss him. A ride 4 life was held at a huge skate park for bikers in Birmingham last November, professional riders turned up for aidan, flew in from France and germany, raising alot of money, an auction selling bikes, gear etc to buy equipment for the Macmillan nurses and local community nurses who made it possible to keep Aidan at home, his care was amazing, we had a wonderful consultant, mike, together with Trish and Julie cared so deeply for Aidan, they adored him and we got to know them so well, our consultant used to come himself to our house in the early hours rather than send a nurse, he gave us his private mobile number, they cared. We will never ever forget their love and care, it was real. We are still in touch with these wonderful people and have set up a trust in Aidan’s name to raise money for much needed equipment for the nurses who look after the terminally ill kids at home. Aidan was diagnosed with cancer at 15, we lost him at 16, he lived his life to the absolute full. Every second with him was a joy, every second without him is unbearable.

Teenage cancer is on the increase, more than 6 teenagers are newly diagnosed every single day just in the UK, the cure rate is low, more research must be done. We have seen so many teenagers lose their lives since we began on that dreadful journey that we feel that if wards were full of kids with appendicites, it would be labelled an epidemic, yet this is the case, wards are full of kids with cancer, often too full, no spare beds. This was a world we knew nothing about. We are left with such an emptiness, yes we have our other children, three older and with their own lives to lead and Layla, just a year younger, missing and longing for her brother, she has only ever known Aidan in her life. It seems such a long life ahead without our son with us, missing him grow up, ahieve his dreams, he had so many. Time does not heal, makes the loss even greater. Children should not get cancer and have to endure the terrible treatment that goes with it, then to lose their lives at the end, so very cruel. We miss Aidan Jude so very much. Our family is broken. Leon, Aidan’s oldest brother has had a large tattoo of a portrait of Aidan on his chest, next to his heart with an image of Aidan on his beloved downhill bike too, he says he wants his little bro next to his heart for ever. Layla has had Aidan’s name tattooed also on her hip, very discreet, she wanted that so badly. Aidan’s dad, Mike rides mountain bikes, obviously not the crazy, reckless way Aidan did, it makes him feel closer to his boy. We try and keep busy, we were lucky to have had Aidan Jude for 16 years, thank you Aidan for being our boy and giving us your love, you will ALWAYS have ours.