A FATHER and son are taking on an epic mountain challenge to raise vital money for Young Lives vs Cancer after a cancer journey like no other when 14-year-old Fionn was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer on his face.
Deane and Fionn Baker, from Whittington near Worcester, will this July be climbing 39 mountains in Scotland in just five weeks to raise money one year on from Fionn being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
In the Autumn of 2019, Fionn, who was 12-years-old at the time, began complaining of swelling in the inside corner of his left eye.
Dad Deane said:
“His eye was a bit weepy and the logical assumption was this might be a blocked tear duct. He was a fit, happy, 12-year old boy and there was no reason to be anxious.”
As time went on, however, the family became more and more concerned as a lump grew larger on Fionn’s face. They first visited a doctor in October, but it wasn’t until March 2020 that Fionn and his parents would be told the devastating news it was cancer.
“The growth was quite literally staring us in the face and was far from normal. The speed at which it was taking over the left side of his face and encroaching on his eye was frightening. There was a catalogue of delays, errors and miscommunications getting a diagnosis, which led to huge emotional upset and trauma. It was only when Fionn’s mum physically went into the hospital with a picture of his face, demanding to speak to someone, that we actually moved the situation forward.”
Fionn was given an MRI scan and a biopsy of the mass on his face was taken during an emergency operation.
“After months of uncertainty, delays and waiting we suddenly felt we were now the focus of a critical emergency. The doctors told us the type of lymphoma Fionn had and there are less than 100 child cases in the UK each year. There is no known trigger for it.”
Five rounds of chemotherapy followed the diagnosis and a life-threatening case of sepsis shock.
Deane said: “Cancer treatment can be very brutal, seemingly inhumane and incredibly frightening, especially when you’re just a child. As a parent, you feel it should be you and not him going through it.
“It was a horrible, indescribable, experience to watch your child to go through cancer. It leaves a scar there is no doubt about that.
“During his treatment, Fionn would struggle to eat since his mouth was ulcerated and blistered, something which affected his entire digestive tract from top to bottom causing him to lose 25% of his body weight. He was frequently sick or nauseous and had no sense of taste alongside the extreme pain and discomfort. After every lumbar puncture, he was plagued by debilitating headaches for a number of days. His joints ached and just keeping enough fluids inside him was difficult.
“In the darkest of these days he did not want to carry on and that’s probably the hardest thing any parent can hear from their child. Hours and hours of incessant crying and a constant need to have his aching body massaged and comforted just to remind him that he was still alive and he would be OK.
“It’s hard to describe the helplessness that one feels as a parent when there is nothing you can do to ease the suffering of your child.”
Together, the family got through treatment and Deane said one year on from his original diagnosis Fionn’s doing remarkably well.
“The story doesn’t end here and it’s still being written. For the next 5 years, he must have an MRI scan of the affected area every 3 months to check for any recurrence and he receives 6 weekly check-ups from his consultant. The prognosis is positive and everyone is hopeful nothing will return.
“Fionn has recently grown at an astonishing rate and is currently costing a fortune in new school uniform and footwear. He has put his lost weight back on, regrown his hair in a slightly different style and recovered his strength and fitness. Even the mental scars and trauma are fading.
“His resilience continues to amaze me, hence our desire to draw a line under 2020 and try to do something in 2021 that will make a difference to others.”
Deane and Fionn will be climbing dad’s last 39 Munros in Scotland to raise money for Young Lives vs Cancer, Teenage Cancer Trust, Birmingham Hospital and Cancer Research UK.
The family wanted to give back to Young Lives vs Cancer after they were supported throughout Fionn’s cancer treatment by a social worker.
“It was my wife Mamta who was first in touch with Young Lives vs Cancer. Our social worker helped Mamta fill out all the necessary paperwork and an application for carers allowance, which was all so daunting. Fionn was given some gifts from Young Lives vs Cancer too, which he was chuffed to bits with and made him smile. We just want to give back to the charities that supported us through our darkest times – and to help them be there for others. We are both hopeful that we can achieve something positive with our challenge.”
The father and son team will be climbing more than 25,480m during the course of the five weeks – over 83,100 feet. That is the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest 2.9 times or Ben Nevis more than 19 times! The pair have already raised thousands for charity and hope to raise even more.
“This is why we need your support. Some of the Munros are close together and it will be possible to do up to three or even four in one expedition but others are quite isolated and will involve long walks, ferry rides, mountain bikes and camping over a few days.
“Fionn and I are incredibly close, and even closer with what we went through together. We share very similar hobbies and interests and both love the outdoors together. Having been apart recently because of work, the thing I am most looking forward to about the challenge isn’t the mountains we are going to climb but the time we will be spending together.”
Sophie Meadows, Fundraising Engagement Manager at Young Lives vs Cancer said:
“We are in awe of the massive challenge Deane and Fionn are taking on in support of Young Lives vs Cancer. 12 children and young people hear the devastating news each day they have cancer and they need our vital support just like Fionn. We will be with them every step of the way, following their journey and being inspired by every mountain they climb to help other families facing journeys just like their own.”
To sponsor Fionn and Deane’s challenge, visit: www.fionnsdad.com