A hero. What is a hero? Superman? Batman? Or my friend, Luke! Yes, that’s right. A hero doesn’t have to be famous, be able to fly or spin their own web. They just need to be inspirational, courageous and amazing.
The true definition of the word hero is:
‘A person who is admired for their courage, bravery, outstanding achievements or noble qualities’.
So, let me introduce you to one of my closest friends … Luke.
Luke is twelve years old and has always been up for anything. We met through our church youth group and used to live around the corner from each other. Just a normal twelve year old boy.
In September 2016 we joined the Army Cadet Force in Rhyl… something we really enjoy doing. We study field craft, orienteering, first aid, skill at arms using the L98A2 cadet general purpose rifle and drill (marching) to name just a few. We go twice a week to platoon nights where we do most of our learning and then also go away at weekends to various army training camps and sporting competitions.
On November the 4th 2016 we went away with the cadets for our first basic training weekend. Luke wasn’t too well, he was on antibiotics but, fair play to him, he took part in everything we had to do – drill, first aid, field craft – the lot! I kept an eye on him but he wasn’t going to give in at any point.
The following weekend was my birthday and a group of us went to Harvey’s for a meal. Luke still wasn’t himself. He was on his second course of antibiotics by now and he was very quiet and seemed really tired.
On December 1st 2016, his Mother took him back to the doctors again as he was no better and was now complaining of lumps in his neck and groin area. They ended up in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Accident and Emergency department.
Following further tests and a scan, Luke was rushed to Alder Hey hospital. Nobody would give a definite diagnosis but we feared the worse when they were directed to the cancer ward.
It was later that day that my mum received a phone call from Luke’s Dad that confirmed our worse nightmares that my friend, who is like a brother to me, was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Everybody was absolutely devastated.. I didn’t know what to do or what to say. How do I act when I see him next? Will he be bald? Will he be sick? I just didn’t know what to think. I had never known anyone before that had suffered from cancer.
Luke was kept in at Alder Hey for more tests and scans over the next couple of days.
My sister had already been raising money for the charity Kids with Cancer but Luke’s diagnosis made the fundraising even more important to us. We had already arranged to have a stall at our church’s Christmas Fair to raise money for the charity. We had wristbands to sell but we decided to do a name the teddy stall too. We put names on a card and asked people to pick the name of the teddy. Can you guess what the name of the bear was?
We called the bear ‘Luke’ – no surprise there! The day was going really well and we raised £72.00 which we were really pleased with. Then, to our amazement, after all he’d gone through, in walks Luke with his parents. He looked completely normal, just a plaster on his neck where he had had his biopsy on the lump that was there. He was smiling. He was normal. He was Luke! He even opened the envelope for us at the end of the day and announced the winner.
The following week he had to go back to Alder Hey to start his first course of Chemotherapy. He was to have five days of chemotherapy in the hospital through a drip and then he could come home and finish the other 10 days with chemotherapy tablets. He would then have two weeks off before starting all over again.
Luke tells me that the hospital is a great place with xboxes, tv’s, games and all sorts to do … and the food is lovely too! They have lots of famous people coming in to see them too, which is pretty cool. They even have wifi so he can FaceTime me when he is there. We talk lots when he is there and even though he might not be feeling too well he is always smiling and joking when I FaceTime him. Makes me think about things differently when I’m moaning about having to do chores and keeping my bedroom tidy!
Our basic training in cadets took place over two weekend camps at Kinmel Camp, Bodelwyddan. The first one, like I said before, was before his diagnosis but the second one was due to take place in January. Some people thought it best that he didn’t go just in case he got hurt or got sick. Luke has a permanent line into is stomach which he calls Geoffrey and his parents and the instructors were worried in case Geoffrey came out or got damaged.
Needless to say, Luke was not happy about this and wanted to go on the weekend. To be fair, it was a pretty important weekend as we were finishing our training and we were due to get our uniforms. We couldn’t wait, but things wouldn’t be the same if Luke didn’t go.
In true Luke form, he managed to convince everybody to let him go.
He did absolutely amazingly and completed everything except for the sports. Some of the other children were moaning about getting up early, the food, having to tidy the rooms and so on but not Luke, he was so happy to be there he took everything in his stride and just gave his best to everything that was asked of him. He was awesome!
How proud were we when we got our uniforms. By now Luke had lost all his hair but once he was in uniform he looked just like the rest of us with our berets on. I was so proud of him and what he had achieved.
Luke continues to lead as much of a normal life as he can. Unless he is in hospital having his chemotherapy, or having a sick day, he goes to school, and on Monday and Wednesday’s we go to cadets and on a Thursday we go to church youth group. We have also spent a day bag packing in Morrisons, helped run tuck shops for community events, been on days out with church and this half term, we have been out almost every day, cycling into Rhyl and back sometimes twice a day.
It is now Friday afternoon and we have spent most of the day together laughing and chatting to our friends over the phone. We have been out to the library and to the park to meet up with some friends and now it’s almost time for us to get ready for yet another weekend away. This time we are off to Altcar Army Training Camp near Liverpool. We leave at 7pm tonight and will be home Sunday afternoon. This weekend will be firing the rifles on the outdoor ranges – we can’t wait!
As always, Luke and I are ready to take on the world (and I’m there to make sure he is ok).
So, the moral of my story is, that when we hear the word ‘hero’ we may well start to think about famous people that have achieved high profile incredible things, but, we should also look a bit closer to home. I genuinely see Luke as a hero. He is suffering from one of the most horrible diseases of modern times and he never ever lets it get in his way of leading a normal life. Always smiling, always happy, always ready to help others, always volunteers to help others where he can and never, ever complains. He doesn’t ask for much – he just wants to be normal.
That’s a true hero in my mind.
My mate Luke.