Danny Burroughs, 12, from Maidenhead in Berkshire
It was Danny Burroughs’ love of sport that first alerted his family that something might be wrong.
Danny Burroughs, 12, received PBT treatment under the NHS overseas programme in 2014
Always active and very outgoing, Danny gets involved in any and every sport: football, tennis, swimming, hockey – the 12 year old from Maidenhead is a junior black belt in kick-boxing to boot. But after a swimming session with a friend in summer 2014, just before he was due to start secondary school, Danny noticed that his left arm wasn’t doing what he wanted it to. Later his mum Debbie noticed that all wasn’t right.
“He was playing tennis and looked over to wave at us, doing this funny little wave with his left hand, and we were thinking he was joking around. Then his hand started to curl up a bit and he was making fun of that, calling it his claw,” says Debbie.
Then during a holiday in France when the family had hired bikes, Danny’s foot kept slipping off the pedal, and he was hobbling when he walked. The family returned to London to take him to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, and dad Andy stayed with Danny while Debbie went home with the suitcases. “I went to get the car, thinking I’d go back and bring them home when Danny had been seen,” she says. “But then the doctors told us they wanted to keep him in to have an MRI on the Saturday.”
The scan showed a lesion on Danny’s brain which would later be confirmed as a right thalamic astrocytoma – a slow-growing brain tumour, along with a cyst. “We were just so shocked,” says Debbie. “You don’t really know what to do; there are a lot of sleepless nights. But Danny was amazing. When the doctor gave him the news he said: ‘Oh, is it a brain tumour?’ Then we all had a hug together and a few tears, and then he just wanted to watch X-Factor. He was amazing.”
After undergoing a brain biopsy at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Danny and his family saw the radiotherapy team at UCLH. Because of the type and location of the tumour, and Danny’s age, they recommended him for overseas Proton Beam Therapy in Jacksonville, Florida.
Danny (centre) with l-r Sam, 20, dad Andy, mum Debbie and sister Zoe, 18
Debbie and Andy both went to Florida for the first week in mid-October, when Danny had to be fitted with a special mask to make sure the PBT could be targeted at the tumour. Andy then returned home and Danny and Debbie stayed in an apartment with a hire car arranged by the Jacksonville hospital and funded by the NHS. They made the most of their time in the States, but Debbie is all too aware of how tough things could be for other families in different circumstances. “It was easier for us than it would be for other families – Danny’s brother and sister are older so could take care of themselves, for example, and other families won’t be so fortunate. But although we took some work with us it meant Danny missed a lot of school right when he was starting secondary school, when you want to make friends and get settled in a new place.”
Danny returned home to Maidenhead on 23 December after nine weeks away. He’s since had another procedure to deal with the cyst and an MRI which shows the tumour is stable, which was the aim.
“He’s doing really well now,” says Debbie. “Of course he’ll need checks every so often for the next six years as he grows up, but things look good. This Sunday he played his first full game of football for months; it’s so good to see him back doing what he loves.”