Mum loses son, 12, to cancer then is told his twin has leukaemia

A mum whose 12-year-old son died of cancer was devastatingly told, just two weeks after his funeral, his twin brother had leukaemia.

Ben Parton was just 11 when he was diagnosed in March last year with glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive type of brain tumour with a survival prognosis of roughly just 15 months.

He underwent 30 sessions of radiotherapy and two cycles of chemotherapy at Birmingham Children's Hospital.

But tragically, eight months later, in December 2019, he lost his battle with the brain tumour.

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Just weeks later, his identical twin brother Jack began to experience back pain and sickness.

Jack's symptoms were initially put down to post traumatic stress disorder after the loss of his brother – but, barely a fortnight after Ben was laid to rest, Jack was diagnosed with leukaemia.

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Ben and Jack's mum, Julie Parton, 51, from Cannock, Staffs, has described the last 18 months as "horrendous".

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She said: "It’s almost impossible to put into words how horrendous this has been.

"Having gone through everything with Ben, and just as we were grieving his loss, it was a hammer blow to find out only two weeks after his funeral that Jack was also fighting cancer.

"Although it seems wrong to say this, it was a relief to discover that Jack had leukaemia rather than brain cancer.

"It is some consolation that with Jack I can dare to feel there is more hope.

If you have been affected by any of the details mentioned in this story there are people who can help you.

Most people grieve when they lose something or someone important to them.

The way grief affects you depends on lots of things, including what kind of loss you have suffered, your upbringing, your beliefs or religion, your age, your relationships, and your physical and mental health.

Grieving is a totally normal process but there are way to get help if you need support.

Your GP is a good place to start. They can give you advice about other support services, refer you to a counsellor, or prescribe medication if needed.

Or you can contact support organisations directly, such as Cruse Bereavement Care (0808 808 1677) Samaritans (116 123) or Love Jasmine.

"Although I have been careful, and too scared I suppose, not to ask for his prognosis, I know that leukaemia is no longer the death sentence it once was.

"Thanks to the investment in research, Jack and other leukaemia patients now have hope of a cure. Ben was not so lucky, he never really stood a chance."

Ben Parton in hospital after brain surgery.

She added: "My identical twin boys were always so close and alike in many ways but different in others.

"Ben was always the more confident and outgoing, and Jack looked to him to take the lead.

"If Ben was doing something or going somewhere then Jack felt safe and secure to follow.

"That has been one of the hardest things to bear.

"No-one should lose their child at the age of 12, and who can imagine the pain of a child of that age who has lost their twin?"

Since his diagnosis in January this year, Jack, now 12, has been having treatment at Birmingham Children’s Hospital where Ben was also treated.

Ben Parton (R), and Jack (L) with their mum Julie Parton.

And, following a bone marrow aspirate this summer, the family received the best news they could hope for – Jack is currently cancer-free.

But the youngster will continue to have chemotherapy for the next two and a half years, to ensure the disease does not come back.

Julie said: "All things considered Jack is doing well although some days are incredibly tough.

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"He misses Ben so much and I’m sure he would give anything for them to be on PlayStation together."

Julie is now campaigning with the charity Brain Tumour Research.

She is urging people to sign a petition to increase the national investment into brain tumour research to £35 million a year.

This would bring a parity of funding with other cancers including breast, prostate, and leukaemia.

Julie said: "Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer.

"Yet, historically, just one per cent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

"I hope and pray that Jack will be okay, and I so wish that would have been the case for Ben. Without investment in research, families like ours have no hope."

To sign the petition, go to: https://www.braintumourresearch.org/campaigning/brain-tumour-research-petition.

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