A trip to the opticians proved a lifesaver for little Alfie Quilliam.
The 10-year-old Fairfield School pupil is cancer free and back home with his five brothers and sisters after undergoing eight months of intensive treatment for a malignant brain tumour.
Speaking from their home in The Strang, mum Helen said: ‘Alfie has been wonderful. He has kept us all on an even keel. The radiotherapy stole his voice but not his smile. He is fantastic. He’s completely clear of the cancer. He’s quiet but feeling well in himself and very happy to be home.’
Granddad Les Crellin, a retired Tynwald select committee clerk, said: ‘What amazes me is that Alfie has been through the mill but never once have I heard him moan or complain, or even cry.
‘Seeing him come out of the hospital after treatment with a beam on his face, any problems you think you have just pale into insignificance. He is an amazing lad and a real inspiration.’
Problems began last September when Alfie started getting tired all the time, even falling asleep at his desk in school. Over Christmas, he was getting headaches, sore eyes and double vision.
Helen said: ‘He’d just got a new computer game so we told him to sit away from the telly for a while.
‘But by the Saturday it had got a lot worse. Alfie and I went into town. He was walking crab-like and complaining his eyes hurt.
‘We had booked in Specsavers and the young lady upstairs said within five minutes that they she would like him to go to A&E.’
At Noble’s Alfie was given a CT scan and within 15 minutes of the results coming through, they were boarding the air ambulance to Liverpool.
On January 3, the little boy underwent a 12 hour operation at Alder Hey children’s hospital to remove a malignant tumour, measuring 5cm by 5cm, that was wrapped around his cranial nerves and main artery.
There followed a series of visits to Alder Hey for chemotherapy treatment, treatments including blood transfusions at Noble’s and then six weeks across for twice daily sessions of radiotherapy at Clatterbridge, ending with two high dose chemotherapy treatments and stem cell transplants.
To compound problems for the family, problems with damp at their home in Westmoreland Road meant they had to move into temporary accommodation. The Manx Housing Trust found them a property at The Strang while Douglas Corporation fixed the damp.
It was a very difficult time for everyone – while either Helen or husband Peter was away with Alfie, the other was at home looking after his siblings Charlie, Lacey, Freddie, Pippa and Vinnie, to maintain a normal routine as far as possible.
The family have said a big thank you to everyone who helped with fund-raising over the last eight months.
Peter said: ‘We don’t really know where to start thanking people for their help over the past months.
‘There were fund-raising events organised by Fairfield and Ballacloan and Manor Park schools, by my work colleagues at Royal Bank of Scotland International and by family and friends at the Manx Legion Club and also events organised by 1st Douglas Cub Pack where lots of people got involved including local businesses and members of the community.
‘I am extremely grateful to RBSI for allowing me time off to either help Alfie during his treatment or to look after the other kids when Helen has been away - and also to Ridgway Gas Services for allowing Helen to take long term leave until Alfie is well enough for her to return to work.
‘Thank you also to the Manx Housing Trust who helped us tremendously when we had a major problem with our house. We are just so grateful for everyone’s help which has helped us all get through this, and that Alfie has pulled through.’
Les said: ‘This help was vital in ensuring that Alfie got the support he needed.
‘Although the government provide travel on and off island, all other expenses have to be found.
‘Local Naseem’s Manx Brain Tumour Charity and Rebecca House have been amazing with their support to Helen and Peter, and I would urge local people to support them to help others with the same problem during what is an awful time.’