Imagine your child has cancer. Imagine the dreams put on hold or crushed. Imagine the incessant worry for the whole family. Imagine all the nasty effects from treatment (if they are lucky enough to get treatment). Imagine the despair as realisation slowly dawns that they are not going to make it.
Imagine that through all this, as the cancer relentlessly eats its way through their body, your child has no pain relief.
I don’t have to imagine any of this, except the last. Daniel suffered grievously in other ways but I am forever thankful that he had access to the best in pain relief. It was not perfect, and occasionally was ineffective, but his pain was usually in check, even at the end. And not just pain relief, but other vital forms of palliation too, such as oxygen and end-of-life sedation.
I simply cannot imagine what it is like to have cancer and not have pain relief. Far too many children in the developing world don’t have to imagine this. It is their reality. Simply horrific. And totally avoidable.
The reasons for this situation are complicated. It is not just money. There are cultural factors; lack of training for professionals; logistical difficulties; and some countries won’t allow opiates to be given used because they fear drug abuse. But money is obviously key.
World Child Cancer is doing great work addressing the problem, in Bangladesh and elsewhere. In Bangladesh alone, it is estimated that 2 million children with cancer and other serious conditions are denied pain relief. Have a look at this video:
It is because of what WCC is doing that I put myself through the pain – irony intended – of the Prudential London 100 bike ride on 30th July 2017, with some family members. I am far too old for such nonsense (the 100 means 100 miles – in one day …).
Daniel died in October 2011, three days short of his 23rd birthday. He was chosen to carry the Olympic Torch, though sadly did not live long enough. How he would have loved that. This is the nomination written by his cousin Katie:
‘I nominate my cousin Daniel, diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer at only 17. Now 22 he has overcome numerous obstacles and setbacks. Despite years of aggressive treatment and countless hospital procedures and admissions, Daniel has, remarkably, achieved: four As at A-level, an Oxford University scholarship (Classics) and grade 8 in piano, clarinet and saxophone. He has line-judged at three Wimbledon championships and umpired matches on chemotherapy, debated in a national competition and travelled globally watching sport (continuing to play whenever possible). Daniel's attitude and achievements are a beacon to other young cancer sufferers, encouraging them to fulfil their dreams. He inspired my family and me to cycle across England for children with cancer in the developing world, raising over £13,000. Daniel rarely complains and has retained his gentle, good-humoured, compassionate nature in the face of unimaginable adversity. A real symbol of hope and determination, he deserves this opportunity to shine’
It was his personality which marked him out. He was not perfect, of course, but as some of those who knew him wrote:
‘Daniel was a witty, gifted, sweet and loyal friend … I do not have a single memory of Daniel without a smile … Daniel was simply the nicest person I knew … the formidable intelligence (especially as a peer!), the sporting and musical talent, but most of all that sense of humour (unforgettable, particularly if you were directly on the receiving end)!… The world has lost one of its brightest stars … I am sure that, if a place like Heaven exists, Daniel lives there! He has been such a loving, caring and good character, if he should not be there, [then] who?’
As many will know, I have published a book about Daniel’s cancer journey called, imaginatively, Daniel My Son (available here). I recount the many lessons I learnt, in so many different areas, and all the help I received from the NHS and doctors around the world, as well as the obstacles we faced.
Above all, it is a tribute to Daniel. As I ended the book:
‘Amidst all the doubt about paternal bias clouding judgement, there are two things of which I am certain. The first is that I have been incredibly blessed to be Daniel’s father. Daniel has lit up my life as brightly as the brightest star ever could …
And, if it was Fate’s decree that this child, this young man, was to be afflicted with cancer and to leave the world early, I am so grateful that [we] were chosen to share the journey with him. Many, many times the pain was searing, and it will remain my shadow for the rest of my life, but I am glad I was allowed to share the road with Daniel, strewn with rocks and craters and mines though it was destined to be. I would not have wanted the burden, the privilege, to be anyone else’s. The second thing of which I am certain is simply this: the world was a better place with Daniel than it is now without him. And that, in the final analysis, is the best epitaph any of us can hope for’.
World Child Cancer gives hope to children with cancer. Sometimes hope of a cure, at least hope of freedom from pain. Hope is a precious gift. Human beings cannot survive without it.
On my website is an article I recently had published in a leading paediatric cancer journal: https://www.danielmyson.com/reactions
This page was written by Daniel's father, David Thomas