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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Carlisle teenager battling leukaemia home after months in isolation

For teenager Damion Wilson, his six-month battle with cancer has been a rollercoaster of isolation, loneliness and homesickness.

Damion Wilson photo
Damion Wilson at home with mum Gill Talbot

But he is determined that his story will inspire others.

After enduring a series of serious headaches last year the 17-year-old was rushed to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle where he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, a rare form of cancer that attacks the white blood cells.

His strain of cancer means that he is very susceptible to infections and has had to spend most of the last six months completely isolated from family and friends.

He is now in remission but it can take up to two years for his immune system to return to some normality.

Damion has just returned to his home in London Road, Carlisle, after undergoing a painful bone marrow transplant, in which specialists punctured his lung during an operation.

His mum, Gill Talbot, described the family’s ordeal.

“It’s been a whirlwind and we have not been home much since he was diagnosed,” she said.

“While he was waiting for a bone marrow transplant he was given chemotherapy, which made him ill, and he spent a lot of time on a ward in the RVI.

“He couldn’t have anybody near him even when he was at home, not that he felt like seeing anybody anyway. We have to think and be very careful of who comes near him – it is very lonely for him.”

While in hospital, Damion, a pupil of Dalston’s Caldew School, had to be completely isolated in a sterile ‘bubble’ room, where only a handful of designated people were allowed to come into contact with him.

“You weren’t allowed to hug him or kiss him, which is hard for them because it is when they are feeling at their worst,” she added.

“For speaking with his friends it is very much Skype but we are now trying to get him to re-engage with the world and the world to re-engage with him. It can become a bit of a pattern when you’re not allowed to see people, which we need to address.”

The ordeal has not only affected Damion, but the whole family has felt the strain.

His sisters Dana, 13, and six-year-old Rhianna have had to temporarily move in with family in Wales while Damion recovers.

They are telling their story as they gear up for a big charity party later this summer to celebrate his 18th birthday. The party will also act as the premiere to his film How To Save A Life, which has captured Damion’s journey with cancer.

Watch Damion's Save A Life film. Article continues below...


He said: “I want people to come to help raise lots of money for all those charities that helped me. Also, I cannot wait to get back to school.”

If his recovery remains on track then Damion hopes to return to school between September and December, with the goal of realising his dream to study software engineering at university.

Gill hopes that her son’s story and the event will encourage more people to become donors.

“There’s this idea that becoming a donor is going to be painful and intrusive but it is not, and it really does save a life,” she said.

The event, which includes a disco, buffet and game zone, takes place on August 16 at the Swallow Hilltop Hotel. Money raised will go towards the Bubble Foundation, the Teenage Cancer Trust and the Anthony Nolan Trust.

Tickets cost £25 or £20 for Caldew pupils and are available from Caldew School or Gill on 07948 691592.

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