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Brave Seaford boy, 11, battles cancer twice in one year
A brave 11-year-old boy is fighting his way back to health after battling cancer twice in just over a year.
Rhys Watkins underwent pioneering surgery to remove a tumour from his lung as part of his treatment.
The youngster, of Seaford, was diagnosed with a rare condition called neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) when he was seven.
One baby is born with the disease every day in the UK.
It causes multiple, mainly benign, tumours in the nervous system and can affect mobility and development.
Rhys’ right leg started to grow longer than his left and he had an operation to remove 2.5 inches from the leg in 2010.
However a cancerous lump then formed at the top of the leg.
Rhys had more surgery to take out the tumour and ten inches of sciatic nerve was also removed, leaving him unable to use his right leg below the thigh.
He then had chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
His dad Trevor, 46, said: “It was very difficult when we had to sit him down and tell him he had cancer.
“Especially since he would be left with a disability and he would not be able to play football anymore.
“But he coped with it all and was busy building his strength back up.
“He started trying different sports like archery and was doing well.”
Unfortunately a scan last October showed the cancer had spread to Rhys’ lungs.
He was immediately referred to specialist consultant Simon Jordan at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London.
Rhys was admitted for a four-hour operation in December and a tumour the size of a tennis ball was removed.
Surgeons carried out a form of keyhole surgery very rarely used on children called video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery.
It is used in more than one in ten cases of lung cancer in adults and avoids the need to open up the chest and spread the ribs apart for an operation.
Rhys was out of hospital three days after the operation and back home in time for Christmas.
Mr Watkins said: “When we were travelling home from hospital on the bus and then the train, none of the other passengers would have known he had just had major surgery – he was walking around like a normal 11-year-old.
“Rhys has known all of his life that he has an illness which he has to deal with, but this lung surgery has had much less impact because of how it was done.
“We hope this will be the only tumour Rhys ever has on his lungs and we would be really happy if this is the case.”
Rhys is continuing to be monitored and will need more treatment in the future.