12-year-old faces long cancer fight

By Rachel Wise

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Mikes Hooker, 12, has a rare type of cancer and faces at least a year of treatment.
Mikes Hooker, 12, has a rare type of cancer and faces at least a year of treatment.

Mikes Hooker, 12, is facing at least a year of treatment for an aggressive form of brain and spinal cancer.

Mikes Hooker is sporting an unusual shaved patch in his mop of dark brown hair as you don't get to choose where the surgeon cuts when he removes an aggressive cancer from your brain.

Earlier this year the 12-year-old from Napier had been feeling faint at school. The William Colenso College student had several days off school but he and mum Kylie Ashdown thought it might just be the heat. All the same, she had told him if it happened at school he was to go to the school doctor.

It did keep happening and the school doctor suggested referring Mikes to a specialist.

"We saw the specialist and Mikes had various tests then an MRI scan," his mother said. "The specialist saw the results and flew Mikes straight to Starship children's hospital in Auckland."

It was devastating news for Ms Ashdown. She was in Thailand at the time at her sister's wedding.

"I never travel, I hadn't been anywhere in 10 years. I rushed straight to Starship and was there for a month ... we have only just got back home to Hawke's Bay."

Mikes was diagnosed with an aggressive brain and spine cancer called medulloblastoma. He went into surgery on April 8 to have the tumour removed. "They told us the surgery would take about four hours. It took nine. We were freaking out because it was taking so long."

There is more waiting to be done. A biopsy from Mikes' tumor has been sent to the United States and the results will determine how aggressive the follow-up treatment needs to be. "We have to go back to Starship on May 5 for six weeks of radiation therapy. The first four weeks Mikes' whole brain will be treated, then just the location of the tumor. This could cause Mikes to have learning difficulties, which will need to be addressed. Then he will have a year of chemotherapy."

Mikes' parents were living apart, but they are working together to see Mikes through this tough time, Ms Ashdown said. He also has an older brother who "has really stepped up" to help keep things running.

At this stage, Ms Ashdown said Mikes needs someone at his side at all times in case anything goes wrong, at which stage she is under instruction to get him "straight to hospital".

It is interfering with her ability to work - Ms Ashdown is the only female crane driver on the staff of ISO at the Napier Port - but she will continue in her job of 10 years, whenever she is able. "Some of the time I will be with Mikes at Starship, but I'll work whenever I'm home. The bills will still keep rolling in. We've cut right back but I need to pay the rent, and I want to keep my car."

Ms Ashdown said she is "freaked out and exhausted".

"There's a lot of paperwork to do and appointments to keep. But we have had a lot of support from Ronald McDonald House where we've been staying in Auckland, and the hospital. It's a long way to go, but the care is the best possible and that gives you a good feeling."

Mikes' family has started a Givealittle page. Go to givealittle.co.nz and search for Mikes Hooker.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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