Christmas is a time of miracles.
That’s what baddie Hans Gruber tells a henchman in festive fave Die Hard and the Halliwell family from Gateshead aren’t about to argue.
They’re looking forward to a double celebration this Christmas after their son Dominic was given the all clear from cancer.
What makes this remarkable is that, when he was aged just 10 weeks, parents Natalie and Chris were told to expect the worst.
Natalie and Chris, along with Dominic and Zach, 12, were told the news by doctors following a scan just days before Dominic’s seventh birthday on December 2.
And while Dominic has been free from cancer symptoms for a while, Natalie admits hearing it officially was incredible.
“It was amazing to hear,” says Natalie. “It was news I was expecting because in my mind Dominic has been free from cancer symptoms for some years, but it’s funny how concerns exist in your subconscious. It’s marvellous, we are all overjoyed.
“When we told Dominic he said, ‘Get in! Does that mean I don’t have to go to the hospital again?’. His whole life has been about hospital, needles and appointments. He was overjoyed.”
Natalie is keen to instil in Dominic just how far he has come since he was first diagnosed with a cancerous mass on his brain, spinal column and central nervous system when he was barely two months old.
Natalie had to leave her then five-year-old son Zach at home with Chris while she lived at Dominic’s hospital bedside for five months.
During Dominic’s illness Rainbow Trust Family Support Workers Vicky and Shelly supported the whole family, listening to Zach’s worries and fears, taking him on days out and to drop-in groups where he met other children and families in similar situations and helping him understand.
Rainbow Trust supported the family in hospital and took Dominic out when he was recovering, which helped his social development, having missed out on so much being in hospital and in treatment for so long.
“Vicky’s training, experience and knowledge have been invaluable and her help and guidance have made a huge difference to the emotional health of our family,” Natalie says.
“The sick child is cared for by the medical professionals, but if the family do not receive external support the impact on their mental health is huge.
“I trusted Vicky from the moment we met, mainly because she and Rainbow Trust Family Support Workers are well known to the other families on the ward going through similar circumstances, and everyone sang her praises.
“Primarily, though, I felt comfortable leaving my baby with Vicky because Dominic himself appeared to love the time he spent with her.”
The family also has a strong support network within their local community and Natalie took to social media to share their news, all the while ever conscious that many families have not been so fortunate.
She thanked Rainbow Trust and other charities and hospitals who have helped them along the way.
“Against all the initial odds, Dominic was finally given the all clear and is now in remission,” she wrote.
“It’s taken a few weeks to get my head around this news and I thought his birthday might be a good time to share this great joy. Miracles do happen.
“We faced one of the greatest nightmares of any parent. By God’s grace he has survived this horrible disease and we will never forget the kindness of all our friends and family and many strangers who pulled together to help us through this time.
“The practical help, prayers, encouragement and gifts of time made a huge difference to us and, of course, the tireless work of the staff at Newcastle RVI, our local GP and charities like Rainbow Trust and Clic Sargent.”
Natalie’s now looking forward to Christmas at home with the grandparents.
“It’s a time for celebration anyway and I think the emotion might get to me over the Christmas and new year period,” she says.
Forever grateful for the trust’s support, Natalie adds: “‘Shelly’ was the first word Dominic ever said. They were a big part of our lives. Parents who haven’t found themselves in similar situations cannot appreciate the dilemma of having a very sick child confined to a ward.
“Despite the parent’s need to get away from it all, there is a terrifying fear of leaving their sick child unless they can balance it with the knowledge that their child is safe and cared for.
“Rainbow Trust made our unbearable situation more bearable. Until you have walked in the shoes of a parent with a sick child, you cannot understand, but they do.”
It’s About Time is the trust’s Christmas campaign, which calls on members of the public to help support families who have a life-threatened or terminally ill child at home, in hospital and in the community, wherever they are needed.
To support them and pledge your support for It’s About Time, visit rainbowtrust.org.uk