In 2014, Daniel Morton’s family were given the devastating news that he had terminal cancer and just 18 months to live.
He was ten years old at the time. But four years later, the 14 year-old is looking forward to Christmas and going back to school after having a growth removed from his brain for the third time.
After a series of surgeries, tests and drugs trials, the exact cause of his condition and the long term impact is still unknown but the teenager, nicknamed Determined Dan, is on a mission to raise as much cash as he can for charities and other causes.
His mother Toni Pearce, of Lingwell Grove, Middleton, said the family wanted to give something back to others after the local community raised enough money to send the whole family on an all-expenses-paid holiday to Florida after Dan’s first diagnosis.
She said: “Not a lot of families have that support and we wanted to raise money for the families, children and patients at the Paediatric Neurosciences ward at Leeds General Infirmary where Daniel is treated.”
They want to do things that make the stay in hospital for youngsters quicker and easier and also put cash towards new medical equipment.
Over the last three years Dan has raised £5,000 from a JustGiving page which he sets up every September for Childhood Cancer Awareness month. And next March the family - who are all huge Leeds Rhinos fans - are organising a walk over six days from St Helen’s Rugby Club in Liverpool to Hull Kingston Rovers, calling at every superleague club along the way.
They are being backed by Mitch Garbutt, a former Rhino’s player but now at Hull KR and Mick Learmonth - a former rugby player turned pro-boxer.
Ms Pearce added: “Hand on heart, we are so lucky, we go for check ups every few months and see our situation compared to some other kids. Anything we can do that makes things easier for other kids, we will do it.
“In four years, just once he has said, ‘why me?’. That is good going and we feed off his positivity.”
The story started in 2014 when Daniel started complaining of headaches and not wanting to get out of bed.
His mother took him to the GP and three weeks of visits, tests at A&E and check-ups with an optician all came back clear. But one day, while he was with his grandmother, he was sick again and subsequently sent for a CT scan which suggested he had grade 4 glioblastoma: the most aggressive form of brain cancer. Ms Pearce and Daniel’s step-father, Russ Bradley, were told that he had 18 months left.
However, further tests in France and Great Ormond Street Hospital in London ruled it out.
She said: “I can’t put into words what I actually felt, it is weird but I was not willing to accept it.
“Four years later he is still here going through it and I am just thankful he is as positive as he is about everything.”
The teenager, who attends Cockburn High School, is about to start a phased return to school after the tumour and condition, which still hasn’t been identified, returned for a third time.
Ms Pearce said: “We literally take it each time as it happens. We are still very unsure what it is and what is causing it.
“It now looks like there is a pattern where it is every two years that there is a new growth. That is consistent with a lower grade tumour and this is how you would expect it to progress.
“It is positive as far as positive can be regards tumours.”
The family is also starting to look forward to Christmas. Ms Pearce said: “We adore Christmas in our family. Russ puts up the decorations on November 6 after Bonfire Night as he says it’s the next thing to look forward to. With everything that has gone on, we are late getting organised. But being together, we can start to move on and Christmas is something we can look forward to.”