Lump on teenager’s arm turns out to be rare cancer leaving family devastated

A family have spoken of their devastation after a lump on their teenage son’s arm turned out to be a rare form of cancer.

Mum Andrea Ellner says her son Tobias, 14, is just like any other teenager his age, enjoying going out with mates and playing on his Xbox.

But a few months ago, the boy’s world was turned upside down.

The teen, from Norton, County Durham, developed a lump on his arm and after a visit to the doctor and then specialists at Newcastle’s RVI hospital, he was given a devastating diagnosis.

The lump turned out to be a rare form of cancer called Ewing Sarcoma and Tobias Ellner is now going through a punishing regime of chemotherapy before surgery to remove it.

Andrea described the diagnosis as “like an atomic bomb had been detonated inside her”.

The effect on Tobias, she said, has been dramatic and the family, including Tobias’s brothers Leo and Jack and dad Michael, are now supporting the 14-year-old through his treatment.

Friends have also launched a fundraising campaign to try and help with the costs of getting to and from the hospital, the care and attention he now needs and hopefully, the chance to provide him with a treat to look forward to.

Andrea said: “He was very shocked and asked all the relevant questions, ‘Am I going to die?’ and ‘Can I still play Xbox?’

“In typical Tobias style, there was no crying or hysterics.

“At the time of the diagnosis, Tobias’ eyes locked on to mine, his mum. He looked at me with complete trust and faith that I wasn’t going to let anything awful happen to him.

“The trust and love between mother and son, captured in that one single moment, will be something that will never leave me,” she said.

“The sole purpose of being a mum is to love, nurture and protect so your child thrives into adulthood. For me as Tobias’s mum, the cancer diagnosis had just destroyed that.

Kathy Griffin reveals ‘shock’ at lung cancer diagnosis

“Being told Tobias had cancer honestly felt like an atomic bomb had detonated inside me.

“Time stopped at that moment and an internal silence has replaced it.”

The diagnosis came in June and events then moved quickly. Tobias had more scans and biopsies and started a treatment plan involving fortnightly chemotherapy.

Initial tests showed the cancer had not spread and doctors are now planning surgery to remove the lump and graft skin over the wound from his back.

His treatment is expected to take a minimum of a year and the side effects of punishing chemotherapy have already kicked in, said Andrea.

“At the beginning of this nightmare, Tobias was looking to the positives – no school work, ringing the victory bell and generally being quite jovial. Long spells at the hospital and feeling very ill due to the evil side effects of the chemo have taken a dramatic toll on him,” she said.

“Tobias misses his friends so much even though they catch up now and then via social media. Like the majority of teenagers, Tobias loved to hang out with his friends. At a time in his life where his level of independence should be increasing, he is about as dependent as a toddler and requiring constant supervision and help with activities of daily living.

“Losing his hair has been devastating for Tobias, who prided himself on keeping it perfect. He is now very, very self conscious despite wearing a cap. In solidarity, his brothers recently had their own hair shaved off so Tobias wouldn’t feel so alone. They even let Tobias use the clippers.

“The normality of life that was once has gone and we are only at the start of this long, difficult journey.”

Both Andrea and Tobias’s dad Michael work but the cost of trips to the hospital and home amendments are increasingly hard to manage, she said.

“Tobias desperately needs things to look forward to, to keep his spirits up. He has asked to go to Centre Parcs when this is all over for a well deserved holiday. We also hope to provide Tobias with a home tutor so he can catch up with learning and re-join his school mates once he is well,” she said, and she thanked those who have already donated.

“It is the kindness of people like you that gives us strength to keep fighting against this,” added Andrea.