Tommy Spurr: Sister of Leeds-born ex-footballer rallying round his brave four-year-old son as he undergoes cancer treatment
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Rio Spurr, now four, has undergone treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy and had a tumour on his kidney removed. However, he still has tumours on his lungs and his family have been told they may need to assess treatment options in the United States if he relapses.
"Rio is unbelievable,” said his aunty, Sarah. “He is so happy, he always has a smile on his face. He's full of fun, he loves singing and dancing. It's really difficult for his parents and us watching him going through what he's going through. He turned four in November but at that young age, having to spend such a long time in hospital, not being able to go to nursery and see his friends as much, it’s hard.
"We want to protect his immune system, he's had quite a few blood transfusions, it's just been really, really difficult. From my perspective, you feel really helpless as his aunty. You can be there and support as much as you can but there's nothing you can do at all to take any of this away from them.
"He's got nine more weeks of chemotherapy before we find out what the situation is and whether the cancer has gone or not. The main tumour was on his kidney and that's been removed but he's also got two tumours on his lungs so that's what we're looking to treat at the moment.”
In order to help ensure a trip stateside would be doable if required, Sarah is taking on a mammoth fundraising challenge. She has committed to completing the equivalent of a marathon, completed by walking, running or cycling, every week for 12 weeks. She also signed up to complete two weekly coached sessions at a local gym.
"Because of the diagnosis that he’s had, they are giving him as much treatment as they are able to at the moment,” Sarah said. “The type of cancer means there is a really high risk of him relapsing. In the worst case scenario, if he does relapse, there's not many options, if any at all, in the UK for treatment.
"His consultant has spoken to his parents about looking at clinical trials abroad if we get to a point where he does relapse. Having this pot of fundraising money would mean they are in a good position to go see what options there are available. Sadly, there won't be any here on the NHS.
"We've got a really sporty family and I'm the black sheep, the one that's not really sporty. I don’t have that in my genes. I was trying to think of something I could do that was really pushing me out of my comfort zone. I signed up at my local gym to do a 12-week fitness challenge which involves doing two personal training sessions every week for 12 weeks.
"I didn't feel like that was enough so I've also committed to do the equivalent of a marathon a week for 12 weeks. That can be running, cycling or walking, a variety of activities that make up the miles every week.”
Rio has received support from a variety of communities, such as the footballing one. His dad, Tommy, retired from the sport in 2019 having represented Sheffield Wednesday, Doncaster Rovers, Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End and Fleetwood Town during his career. Last year, numerous football stars gathered for a charity match in support of Rio.
"Strangers have really been supportive, it just makes you realise there are good people in the world,” Sarah explained. “It's comforting to know people care and do want to help. There's friends you worked with years ago that you don't see much anymore giving really supportive messages."
Sarah is accepting donations on her JustGiving page.