Heartbreak as boy, 3, diagnosed with brain cancer for the third time

A family from Sunderland have been left heartbroken after their three-year-old son was diagnosed with brain cancer for the third time.

Brave Oliver Muter from Pennywell, Sunderland, was only six-weeks-old when he was in hospital fighting for his life after doctors discovered he had a brain tumour.

He underwent a gruelling 12-and-a-half-hour operation to have as much of the tumour removed as possible at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

His parents Hayley Downey, 31, and Jordan Muter, 25, were told the tumour was cancerous and Oliver was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma – one of the most common types of cancerous brain tumours in children.

Oliver had 24 weeks of intense chemotherapy and was given the all-clear.

Oliver Muter at six-weeks-old when he was first diagnosed with brain cancer
Oliver Muter at six-weeks-old when he was first diagnosed with brain cancer

But tragedy struck again when in February 2019 doctors discovered it had sadly returned but the brave little boy managed to fight it off and he went into remission.

Sadly in April 2020, the family were told the cancer had returned again, for the third time- and this time there were two tumours.

His mum Hayley said: “We didn’t really expect it given how well he was doing but he’s still going strong.

“You do think why has this happened to my child? I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, it’s just awful.”

His parents first became concerned when Oliver’s eyes started “jumping” at just six-weeks-old.

And after being checked over by a health visitor, Oliver was taken to Sunderland General Hospital and was later transferred to the RVI where the family were told he had a brain tumour.

Hayley said: “You don’t automatically think it’s something as bad as a tumour but hearing that word for the first time at the RVI was a massive shock.”

During a 12-and-a-half-hour operation, a surgeon managed to remove two-thirds of the tumour, but Oliver wasn’t out of the woods yet.

Hayley, who was staying in accommodation on hospital grounds for parents of children in intensive care, explained: “We got a call to say: ‘Can you come over, we don’t believe he’s going to make it through the night.’

“We rushed over and he was being given adrenaline and doctors were just surrounding him.

“They don’t like to do CT scans on such young children but they had to for Oliver because there was something going on in his head.

“He couldn’t exhale and his heart was stopping so they had to keep bringing him back.”

Doctors discovered Oliver had a bleed on the brain and he was rushed into theatre where a surgeon managed to stop the bleed.

Oliver was moved onto a neurology ward where he was monitored 24/7 and soon started 24 weeks of intense chemotherapy.

The family were overjoyed when he was given the all-clear- but were quickly brought back down to earth when in February 2019 they discovered it had returned.

Oliver Muter has beaten cancer twice but in April this year his parents found out the cancer had returned
Oliver Muter has beaten cancer twice but in April this year his parents found out the cancer had returned

Hayley said: “I just felt numb. How he reacted the first time round I thought he beat it.

“The first time the tumour had completely gone after the first round of chemo but he had to finish the whole course so did another 16 weeks.

“I thought that would have been enough to keep it away.”

This time, doctors managed to fully remove the tumour but Oliver still had to go through five weeks of high dose chemotherapy.

Again he was put into remission until doctors discovered two tumours in April this year.

Hayley said: “His consultant said he’s had that much chemotherapy that any more would basically poison his body. A human body can only go through so much no matter how young they are.

“We were given three options. Do nothing, do all the chemo which would prolong his life or do the radiotherapy. The others didn’t sound like an option to me so we chose to do the radiotherapy.”

Oliver was given six weeks of radiotherapy which he finished on July 26 and his parents were told both tumours had shrunk which Hayley said was the “best news”.

He is due to have a scan next month to check his progress and to see what the next steps are.

The family also believe Oliver has autism as he’s showing a lot of the usual traits.

Despite everything he’s gone through Oliver remains the “happy, smiley” boy he’s always been.

Oliver has completed his radiotherapy and will have another scan next month
Oliver has completed his radiotherapy and will have another scan next month

Hayley said: “He’s doing really well. He’s known no different, from being a baby he’s always been back and forth to the hospital so he’s coped really well.

“Despite everything he’s always happy and smiley even though he’s gone through so much.

“He’s had 16 operations with the majority of those on his head, he’s had so many central lines put in, so many check-ups but he’s still smiling.”

Now the parents are trying to raise awareness of the disease.

Hayley added: “When you’re at the hospital you start talking to other families and you don’t realise how many kids are going through this.

“You do feel shut off from the world but you get to know all of the families and you end up seeing them more than your parents.

“You see children you’ve come to know pass away, it’s just awful.”

The family are now trying to raise money to fund a family holiday where they can make happy memories with Oliver’s siblings Emily, 13, Michael, 5, and Amelia, 1.

If you would like to donate, you can do so here.

Chronicle Live – Sunderland