Sculthorpes all smiles after cancer nightmare

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AS they sit in their Orrell home, laughing and joking like any other family, it’s easy to overlook the year the Sculthorpes have had.

Just over 12 months ago, their lives ground to halt with one of the most devastating pieces of news imaginable.

Little Evie, the youngest of the family of five, was diagnosed with a Wilms tumour: a form of kidney cancer.

As she sat with her dad, rugby league legend Paul, on the sofa last July, he felt a small lump on her stomach and decided to get it checked out and the horrific truth about her illness was revealed.

Speaking about the battle for the first time, he told the Wigan Observer: “We took her to the doctor’s and they just said they wanted to refer her for an emergency scan.

“I took her up to Wigan A&E and the paediatrician said he didn’t like the look of it, kept her in, ran some bloods and then took her first scan on the Friday morning.

“We were just hoping he would say it’s in her stomach but he said she had a Wilms tumour.

“They diagnosed her on the Friday lunchtime and said she had a bed at Manchester Children’s hospital and to go up on the Monday, so you can imagine what that weekend was like. It was absolutely horrific.”

But for the lump, Evie had no symptoms. She was just a regular fit and healthy four-year-old girl.

The news rocked the family, including big brother Jake and older sister Lucy-Jo who had to come to terms with the fact that their little sister had cancer.

Evie had a biopsy on the Tuesday and was fitted with a portacath under her arm so she could be administered chemotherapy.

“That was horrendous,” added Paul. “Having that done every week for four weeks.

“When we were at the hospital, there was a little girl there who just looked normal but then all of a sudden just whipped her wig off.

“Evie had four weeks of that and then she had surgery to remove the tumour and also the kidney and then another dose of chemo.”

It’s often said that people don’t fully understand the gravity of such illnesses until it affects them.

The same can be said of the Sculthorpes but for Paul, it was relatively familiar surroundings. For years he had helped fund-raise for his friend and fellow ex-St Helens player Steve Prescott, who bravely battled cancer.

Sadly, Steve has now passed away but he was one of the first to help with advice upon Evie’s diagnosis last year.

Another charity which Paul and wife Lindsay have been so keen to support is Joining Jack, set up by former Wigan player Andy Johnson to find a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy which their son Jack is battling.

“Andy and his wife Alex were one of the first ones to get in touch,” said Paul.

“Alex brought Jack and James to come and play with Evie.

“You sit there looking at Jack and Evie and you just think it’s so unfair. It shouldn’t happen to anybody but it certainly shouldn’t happen to kids.”

The person who handled the situation best though was Evie herself.

“She breezed through it to be honest,” said Paul. “She was sickly on her medication, she had one drug one week, two the next and it was when she had two that made her sick for 24 to 48 hours which was horrible.

“Losing her hair and that, she’s laughed all the way through it. We’ve made it fun for her with different hats and prizes every week.”

Lindsay added: “She just kept saying there was a lump in her tummy.

“We just felt so helpless, because we couldn’t do anything and when she had the chemo I couldn’t make her better by giving her a little bit of Calpol.

“We just had to let her get over it for 24 to 48 hours and then she would be right as rain again.”

Evie started losing her hair on the fourth week of her chemotherapy but things started to get better.

By Christmas, everything was pretty much clear and she was enjoying her first year at Newfold Primary School, as well as preparing for a special festive dance performance.

“I think every member of our family was in the audience that night crying,” recalled Lindsay, smiling at the positive end to 2013. “It was so emotional, we were just so proud of her.”

Evie has had regular ultrasound and chest X-rays every three months since her diagnosis and has just passed her 12-month test.

Life is looking rosy again but the support and treatment she received will always be remembered by the Sculthorpe family.

“Manchester Children’s hospital was just amazing,” said Paul. “She was on ward 84 which is the oncology ward.

“They were just absolutely amazing, they were brilliant and our consultant too.

“We’ve got the best private medical cover but we went down the path we did and we went to Wigan.

“People forget about how good the NHS actually is, you don’t realise until you need it.

“On top of that the support we have had from friends and family as well as the rugby league community has been unreal. Her school and Carol Barton dance school have both been wonderful with us.

“We’re so proud of Evie too, she’s come out of it smiling. Her hair is growing back now with a curl and she really suits it.”

Little Evie hasn’t been short on support since her cancer diagnosis last year and her big sister Lucy-Jo proved that on Sunday.

The 10-year-old bravely cut off her long brown locks, not only to raise money for the Little Princesses charity but also to donate the hair itself.

It will now go to making a wig for another little girl or boy battling cancer and being treated with chemotherapy.

Lucy-Jo faced the scissors at a family party with her auntie doing the big cut, helped out by Evie.

Dad Paul couldn’t hide his pride afterwards on what was an emotionally-charged afternoon.

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