A SPORTS loving youngster is about to celebrate a milestone birthday his family thought he would never live to see.
At the age of two Luke Cater had to endure a four hour operation to have a tumour the size of a melon removed from his stomach as well as a kidney after being diagnosed with cancer.
Thankfully Luke, of Queensgate Square has been clear of the disease for several years but he is still plagued by continuing health problems, including a newly diagnosed incurable heart condition, as a direct result of aggressive chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
But against the odds Luke has fought to overcome his health problems and this Saturday (August 4) will celebrate his 18th birthday, a monumental achievement for a young man who it was feared would not live to see his third birthday.
Speaking to the Free Press ahead of the celebrations mum Angela Jones has spoken of Luke’s bravery and determination to pursue as normal a life as possible, her pride for his achievements so far and her gratitude for all those who have supported them over the years.
“We didn’t think he would get to three-years-old so to look back there and to see him now you just wouldn’t believe the long battle that we have had but he just keeps bouncing back, he’s a fighter,” she said.
“I’m just so proud of him and the way he has handled all his health problems, he’s handled it better than me,” she added.
The Free Press has followed Luke’s story since the tumour was first discovered after a bump on the head at home led to a hospital visit for the two-year-old.
Luke underwent life-saving surgery at St James Hospital, in Leeds where he received chemotherapy over the course of a year, accompanied by his favourite cartoon pooches - a collection of toy dalmation puppies collected from the burger chain McDonalds.
Through the Free Press Angela appealed for people to donate model dalmations to little Luke to aid him in his recovery, and soon enough he was inundated with donations.
Townsfolk also rallied round to raise funds to give Luke the holiday of a lifetime to Disney World, in Florida through the Make A Wish Foundation.
Golf tournaments, car boot sales, games stalls, and darts marathons to name just a few events sprang up all over town while one brave pensioner, 81-year-old Mabel Swift, even did a skydive to help out.
The Free Press were there when Luke celebrated his third birthday and the news that he had been given the all clear in 2002, and now he will celebrate his 18th birthday in spite of ongoing health problems.
Two months ago Luke was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle which is incurable but can be slowed by drugs treatment.
Despite being forewarned by medics that the chemotherapy could cause heart problems the news still came as a shock to Angela.
“They told me five years ago that it was a heart valve and it was repairable but then I was told it was incurable. I was in floods of tears but he was just like ‘I expected it’.”
And it is this determination which has seen Luke continue with his schooling, despite having developed neutropaenia - a condition which means he has low levels of white blood cells, leaving him prone to infections.
When his levels were especially low Luke was unable to mix with other youngsters but his teachers at Bridlington School would tutor him out of hours to ensure he did not fall behind.
Angela has said a big thank you to the School for all their support which she has described as “amazing” and also to Micky and Julie Walker, of the Katie Walker Trust who have been a fantastic support.
Luke has now completed sixth form, having sat exams for his BTEC Diploma in PE, A-level textiles and an Extended Project Qualification, and is now looking ahead to a career as a PE teacher.
“He knows he wants a career out of it and he’s not going to let it stop him,” Angela said.
“It’s been drilled into him he’s got to keep fit because of his heart so it’s become a way of life for him,” she added.