'I had never heard of cancer': Young Oscar's brave fight

Kristine Tarbert
Senior Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
Oscar Dickeson had never heard of cancer until he had to fight the disease himself. Photo: Supplied/Angela Dickeson

A regular day at Kindy quickly turned into a parent’s worst nightmare when a four-year-old Oscar Dickeson started feeling unwell.

And within just two weeks of the initial symptoms of stomach pain and vomiting, Oscar’s parents Marc, 38, and Angela, 40, were given the news no parent ever wants to hear.

“We had very little warning signs or symptoms,” Angela tells Yahoo Lifestyle, of the moment the Townsville family’s world came crashing down.

“He was admitted to hospital on a Sunday with stomach pain and a swelling/lump in his abdomen, and was operated on that night

“The cancer was confirmed less than 24 hours later and we were flown from Townsville to Brisbane within 12 hours for immediate treatment.”

Oscar was a happy little four-year-old boy when he was diagnosed with Burkitt Lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in which cancer starts in immune cells. The cancer is recognised as the fastest-growing human tumour and is rapidly fatal if left untreated.

“I had never heard of cancer, but when they told me what it was, I was really scared,” Oscar, who is now eight, remembers.

He was diagnosed with Burkitt Lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Photo: Supplied/Angela Dickeson

As Oscar went through four months intensive chemotherapy, staying in the children's hospital, Angela says they were always very honest with him.

“We were always honest with him with any questions he asked and worked with occupational therapists in the initial stages to help him better understand what he was about to go through and why,” Angela tells us.

Oscar had further diagnostic tests once the family arrived in Brisbane, which then showed more cancerous tumours throughout his chest, after the original tumour that had been found in his abdomen was removed surgically.

Scans revealed more tumours and he underwent four months of chemo. Photo: Supplied/Angela Dickeson

But while his prognosis was good, Angela says he was very unwell during his treatments. And he really made his parents proud managing to say his “happy and cheeky” most of the time.

“During the last cycle of chemotherapy things got very tough, and he had had enough - he ran away from me between scans and actually ran out of the hospital - that was incredibly upsetting,” the mum recalls.

“He also tried to run out of the oncology ward several times when he was not connected to his chemotherapy. It was absolutely heartbreaking trying to stop him and bringing him back to his bed.”

Angela says having to see their son go through the harsh treatments was the most difficult thing they have ever been through.

“We had to watch him go through the gruelling treatments and fight for his life, and nothing was guaranteed to work - he could have not responded to the treatment, and he was at risk of his cancer returning, or another form of cancer developing,” she says.

Mum Angela says it was the hardest thing the family has had to go through. Photo: Supplied/Angela Dickeson

Despite the struggle, Oscar put up an incredibly brave fight and is now officially in remission.

“He was placed into remission about five months after diagnosis, and has remained in remission since,” a relieved Angela says.

Now he is back to being his healthy and happy self, and can enjoy playing soccer with his dad, reading with his mum, and playing handball with older sister Isla, 11.

Oscar is now eight and in remission. Photo: Supplied/Angela Dickeson

“He is happy and healthy and willingly talks to people about what he went through,” his mum says.

“He has a very good understanding now of what he went through, and is aware that he could have died, and he feels very lucky to be in remission and be well again.”

The Dickeson family are proud ambassadors and supporters of the Townsville to Cairns Bike Ride, which raises funds for the Children's Cancer Institute and vital research into curing childhood cancer. His dad rode 350km over three days in July.

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