On his 15th birthday doctors told Ryan Scutt he had cancer, a skull-based tumour so rare it only affects about one in two million people. The diagnosis came at the end of months of unexplained headaches which grew progressively worse.
‘It was as if a cannon had been fired into our chests,’ says his mother Hayley, describing how she and her husband Stephen felt on hearing the devastating news.
Until he grew ill, Ryan was, as his mother describes him, ‘a fun-loving, rugby-mad typical teenager who in his spare time also loves fishing, fast cars, farming and food’. A pupil at Gillingham School, as well as playing for North Dorset Rugby Club, Ryan was in Bath Rugby’s Developing Player Programme. ‘He was fit, healthy and sporty,’ continues Hayley. ‘It shows cancer can strike even the fittest of people.’
Since that day in mid-September, Ryan has endured a barrage of invasive scans and tests. ‘The hospital gives you a “bead of courage” for every one – in two weeks he had almost 100,’ says Hayley. ‘It’s been a real baptism of fire.’
He is now undergoing nine gruelling weeks of continuous chemotherapy as well as having to take high levels of steroids alongside medicine to help control the side-effects which include not just nausea, vomiting and fatigue, but also painful mouth ulcers, constant ringing in his ears and mood swings. This will be followed by six weeks of proton radiotherapy, a relatively new cutting-edge treatment only offered in Manchester, and which thankfully the NHS approved funding, which means being in hospital, far from home, over Christmas and into the new year.
Despite all of this, Ryan has kept his chin up. ‘He has been amazing,’ says Hayley. ‘He told us he’s not going to worry because that won’t change anything.’
As well as his family, keeping him going has been a remarkable show of support from friends but also celebrities and professional sports people including chef Gordon Ramsey, the Bath Rugby team, rugby stars such as Jamie Noon and Danny Cipriani and those from the worlds of car racing and fishing, who have sent videos or twitter posts of support which can be read on a special Facebook page his family have set up, called Ryan’s Road to Recovery.
‘We started the page as something nice to look at in a sea of horribleness; to do something positive so some good can come from this,’ says Hayley. ‘And it has. When Ryan reads the messages, you can visibly see him get a lift – he was morphine-free for four days in the early days of treatment, and I put this down to the impact of the messages which had started coming in. They make him laugh and they say laughter is the best medicine. We are a family that absolutely believe in science but we also believe in the power of positivity when it comes to helping the body heal along side the science.’
Ryan is also determined to fund-raise for three charities that are helping him – Piam Brown Ward, Teenage Cancer Trust and CLIC Sargent. So far, along with his cousin, he has raised over £3000.
All being well, Ryan’s treatment ends in late winter, although the effects of the treatment are likely to last to the spring. Says Hayley: ‘It’s a long journey, but we’ll get there, one day at a time.’
To see Ryan’s many messages, go to Ryan’s Road to Recovery on Facebook.
If you would like to donate to Ryan’s Just Giving page, click here