This is the story of Coopers and their son’s battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. For, any parent it’s devastating to see their child suffer, but the story of Bailey Cooper is one of true love, absolute determination and, family.
How Bailey Cooper Battled Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a Rare Form of Cancer
It was back in the summer of 2016, 9-year-old Bailey Cooper began feeling a sickness that would not go away. In September, his concerned parents Lee (father) and Rachel (mother) brought him to the hospital, they chalked it up as a viral infection.
But, day by day Bailey’s condition continued to worsen with severe stomach pains, even after taking the antibiotics for his suspected chest infection. So, his parents took him back to the hospital where doctors ran a number of tests, including a blood test.
“We didn’t know anything then. When we brought him into hospital before, we thought he would be okay, and we started doubting ourselves for a bit,” Lee told the Bristol Post. “But the pains got worse and worse, and the oncology doctors told us he had to go into treatment.”
Unfortunately, by the time oncologists discovered that Bailey Cooper had the rare form of cancer known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the disease was already in its third stage. In combination with steroid medication, oncologists began chemotherapy on Bailey immediately.
What You Should Know About Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Cancer
The lymphoma cancer that Bailey Cooper had begins in the lymphatic system, your body’s disease-fighting network. In most cases, oncologists are not sure what exactly causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But when it’s present, tumors begin to form from a type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte.
In stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the type of lymphoma cancer that Bailey Cooper had, it can mean one of two things:
- You have lymphoma in lymph nodes on both sides of the diaphragm, or
- You have lymphoma in lymph nodes on both sides of the diaphragm, and a nearby organ or area of your body is also affected.
Other non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma symptoms can include:
- Painless, swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits or groin
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Chest pain, coughing or trouble breathing
- Persistent fatigue
- Night sweats
- Unexplained weight loss
A Glimpse of Hope
In February 2017, Bailey Cooper went into remission and doctors were hopeful that he would recover.
“They thought there were no more signs of the cancer,” said Lee. “He started back at Stoke Lodge school and from then we were home. He had to go in for regular check ups and routine MRIs every three months, but things were looking up.”
During the Easter holiday, the Cooper family took a family trip to Finlake park in Devon County in England.
“On the second day, we were in Paignton Zoo when we had a phone call from the hospital that he had relapsed and they needed him back in. Bailey showed signs that he was breathless and tired.
Doctors explained to Lee and Rachel that Bailey had a 70 percent chance of surviving.
“He went into chemo again,” Lee said. “The doctors threw the book at it, and told us even if he survived it, the-long term effects will last for the rest of his life. He had a stem cell transplant… We had to try everything we could.”
At a very young age of 9, Bailey Cooper continued to fight through it all with his family alongside him. Towards the end of July, doctors told him and his family that his cancer – again – had gone into remission.
“We had six weeks at home with him that summer,” said Rachel. “It was amazing.”
A Stolen Hope
When month of August came to an end, only one month later, the cancer had reappeared. This time, there was nothing Bailey’s doctors could do.
“[The consultant] broke the news to us. It was late Stage Four, and it was even worse. It was very aggressive… She told us there wasn’t very long left – it was only days or weeks.”
After knowing that their son’s cancer had spread into his chest, lungs, liver and stomach, they could only offer their love and presence as they sat in the hospital room with their dying son.
“Bailey was only nine, but we were very open with him. We told him straight away. He broke down and said he didn’t want to go on his own… We stayed there with him, and in a couple of hours, he took it all in. He gave us a smile and said, ‘Let’s go home…’ He wanted to process it and needed reassurances what was going to happen after he died.”
“Those three months were absolutely horrendous,” Rachel said. “We knew he didn’t have very long, and we tried to enjoy whatever time he had left.”
Bailey Cooper was in painkillers, but, still his condition continued to deteriorate as the weeks wore on. However, that did not deter him from planning his own funeral, at which he wanted everyone donning superhero costumes.
The Tiny Hope That Kept Bailey Cooper Going
Death never stopped looming, but neither did Bailey’s excitement to meet his unborn sister whom he said should be named ‘Millie.’
“We didn’t think he would last that long, but he was determined to meet Millie. It got to the end of November, and Millie was born,” Rachel recalls. “He hugged her and did everything an older brother would do – change her, wash her, sing to her.”
Bailey’s nana expressed her wish that she could take his place and, with wisdom beyond his 9 short years, he replied: “That is really selfish Nan. You have grandchildren to take care of.”
“I want to stay but it’s my time to go,” said Bailey, “to become [Millie’s] guardian angel.”
On December 22, Bailey’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma had completely taken over his body and caused him to become unresponsive.
“We sat there hour by hour, watching him slip away. We read him stories, and listened to his favourite music,” Rachel recalled. “By 11.45am on Christmas Eve, we were by his bedside. We knew it was not going to be long. We told him ‘It’s time to go Bailey. Stop.’ The moment we said ‘stop’, he took his last breath and had just the one tear come out of his eye. It was peaceful.”
“Bailey smiled through it all. He pulled funny faces and made people laugh, even though he was in so much pain,” Lee said. “We are numb, but in a way also happy he is no longer in pain.”
“We have to carry on for Bailey,” added Rachel. “He told us in our last family meeting: ‘You’re only allowed to cry for 20 minutes. You have to take care of [little brother] Riley and Millie.’”