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“Monster cancer was killing our baby” 24.02.13

by Linda McGrory

A BRAVE toddler who was under attack from a “monster cancer” and given only a 30 per cent chance of survival has beaten the odds after doctors gave him the all-clear.
Mike (44) and Aster Mullins (41) have hailed their three-and-a-half year old son Andrew’s recovery “a miracle” after his gruelling 18-month battle with the rare and aggressive high-risk neuroblastoma.
“An evil creature, a demonic monster was inside our baby. It had one goal and that was to kill,” said Mike.
Andrew was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 17 months two years ago. The young boy from Buncrana, Co Donegal, was already in the fourth and final stages of the cancer with a thick "tentacled" tumour measuring 8˝ inches long wrapped around his spine. Tests at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin revealed that the cancer was in 90 per cent of his bone marrow and had spread to every bone in his body except those in his hands and feet.
His Dutch-born mother and Kildare-born father say the heartbreaking diagnosis plunged their young family into turmoil.
Aster gives brave Andrew a cuddle during his gruelling 18-month cancer battle.
"All of a sudden our world was turned upside down. Our hearts were broken," said full-time mum Aster, who was heavily pregnant with the couple's sixth child at the time.
The Mullins first noticed something was wrong with Andrew when he was 13 months. He would bang his head against his cot and wake up screaming at night. He lost his appetite, became scrawny and his walking development stalled. The couple also noticed he would tap his back when crying. In January 2011 they discovered a small lump near his spine.
Truck-mad Andrew in the driving seat.
After his cancer diagnosis the following month, the Mullins agreed for their son to be put on a new European trial for children with neuroblastoma. It involved an 18-month treatment protocol in Crumlin that included chemotherapy, stem cell transplant and immunotherapy that was sometimes excruciating. He also had radiotherapy at St Luke's hospital during the intensive programme.
At the same time, the Mullins, who are devout Christians and founding members of the missionary charity OM Ireland, launched a “worldwide prayer blitz" and fundraising drive for their son. A well-wisher sent them a CD entitled 'God wants you Well' which they say transformed their lives and changed the way they pray forever. "Rather than pleading and begging for healing, we decided to put our faith in a loving God who wants to heal," said Mike, who works for the Irish Coast Guard at Malin Head. At the same time, several thousand people were following and praying for the blonde youngster on his Facebook page. But progress was slow and it was feared he might have to leave the medical trial.
Happy family: The Mullins from Buncrana, Co Donegal, are delighted that Andrew has got the cancer all-clear from doctors. Pictured are dad Mike and mum Aster with their six children, Matthew (12), Sarah (11), Jonathan (9), Joshua (7), Andrew (3˝) and Grace (2).
However, as the Mullins’ prayers for healing intensified, they received a phone call on September 19, 2011 from Andrew’s consultant to say the child's bones were completely clean of cancer. The unexpected result allowed him to remain on the trial and qualified him for a stem cell transplant and immunotherapy. His treatment finished in June 2012 and four months ago, the bubbly youngster, who loves cars and trucks, was given the official all-clear. He had an ultrasound test last week in Crumlin and it revealed that he remains cancer-free. The Mullins heap praise and thanks on their son's medical team and the ground-breaking treatments he received. But they say they ultimately put their faith in God.
"We are in no doubt that Andrew's recovery is a miracle. He received all the prescribed treatment that was offered including chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, radiotherapy and immunotherapy but even still our faith rested with God and not in the medicine to heal him," said Mike. The couple, whose other children are Matthew (12), Sarah (11), Jonathan (9), Joshua (7) and Grace (2), say they have witnessed other extraordinary cases of healing on their cancer journey with Andrew. They now want to relay their message of hope to others.
"I think one of the reasons many people aren’t healed is not God’s unwillingness to heal but people's inability to receive," added Mike.
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