Brave Joe Rourke and his family return to Redgrave
The parents of a young boy who is battling cancer for the second time, have spoken of their joy as they brought him home to Redgrave.
Sean and Louise Rourke have been staying at a special charity cottage in Bristol for the last two-and-a-half months while son, Joe, underwent a bone marrow transplant at Bristol Royal Infirmary, from his big brother Patrick, six.
On September 13, the couple were given the news they had been waiting for when a consultant told them Joe’s immune system was now strong enough for him to return home with his family.
The news also came just three days before his fourth birthday, which the brave youngster spent at home in Redgrave with family and friends, enjoying a new toy electric motorcycle, from his nan and granddad.
“It’s just amazing, I can’t describe it any other way,” said dad Sean, 53, who used to the run The Cross Keys pub in the village.
“When we told Joe we were going home, he punched the air with both fists and shouted ‘Yes’.
“He was very excited, especially as it was in time for his fourth birthday.”
Doctors first discovered Joe was suffering from a rare form of lymphoblastic lymphoma when he was 10 months old.
The youngster went through two years of treatment and was given the all clear in August last year.
Joe was diagnosed with cancer again, however, during a routine check-up in January.
“It was a shock for us all. We were devastated,” said Sean.
“We’d just had the best Christmas ever and been on a family holiday to celebrate and were looking forward to the future.”
On hearing Joe was about to start battling again, villagers in Redgrave first helped the family by doing household chores and school runs.
They then helped establish the fund, Joseph Vs Cancer, to support the couple, as both Sean and Louise had to give up their jobs.
They welcomed Sean, Louise, Joe, Patrick and Jenny home this week.
“We can’t thank everyone enough for their support. They have been amazing,” said Sean.
“The fund allowed us to buy toys and gifts for Joe to play with throughout his treatment and helped keep us going.
“Patrick has gone back to school and was a bit nervous at first, but we are getting back to normal with each day.
“After being away for so long with many ups and downs after the transplant, it all feels a bit surreal, but we are getting used to life in Redgrave again.
“On Sunday, we celebrated Joe’s birthday and, although things still won’t be easy over the coming months, we are home at last.”
Joe received the transplant from his brother on July 13.
This year, alone, he has already undergone 13 weeks of aggressive chemotherapy, followed by eight doses of total body radiotherapy, three doses of targeted radiotherapy and a further five doses of chemotherapy.
The latest treatment wiped his body clear of all his own bone marrow to make way for the transplant from his brother.
“It will take about 18 months for Joe’s immune system to be fully functioning,” said Sean.
“We can’t really take him to any enclosed spaces like restaurants or to places with groups of children because, at the moment, he has the immune system of a two-month-old baby in the body of a four-year-old boy.
“Any kind of infections will mean he will have to go straight to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, where he is now an outpatient again and we will still have to take him every week.
“Joe is a fighter and always has been.
“On his birthday, we spoiled him rotten. His his favourite present was his electric motorcycle from his nan and grandad, which he loves to bits.
"It really is great to be home.”