A brave UK boy’s parents have told how their nine-year-old son battling cancer met his baby sister weeks before his tragic death.
Despite the fact doctors had only given little Bailey Cooper “days or weeks” to live after cancer ravaged his body, the Bristol boy defied the odds to meet his sister – who was born at the end of November - before tragically dying just a few weeks later.
With his parents Lee and Rachel clutching his hands, Bailey shed a tear and took his last breath on noon at Christmas Eve.
Bailey’s battle started in the summer of 2016 when he started feeling unwell.
Initially, doctors thought he’s just contracted a virus. When things didn’t get better, he was given antibiotics for a suspected chest infection.
However, after Bailey started getting excruciating stomach pains, a blood test confirmed the devastating news that he was suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which develops in the network of vessels and glands in the body.
Tragically, by the time it was discovered, it was already in stage three.
Bailey’s father, Lee told the Bristol Post: “We didn’t know anything then. When we brought him into hospital before, we thought he would be okay, and we started doubting ourselves for a bit.
"But the pains got worse and worse, and the oncology doctors told us he had to go into treatment.”
Chemotherapy started immediately, together with steroid medication. At that point, doctors thought Bailey would recover. In February 2017, he went into remission.
“They thought there were no more signs of the cancer," said Lee. "He started back at Stoke Lodge school and from then we were home.
"He had to go in for regular check ups and routine MRIs every three months, but things were looking up.”
However, during a family holiday at Easter in 2017, the family got some devastating news.
“On the second day, we were in Paignton Zoo when we had a phone call from the hospital that he had relapsed and they needed him back in. Bailey showed signs that he was breathless and tired,” said Lee.
Despite the relapse, doctors told the Cooper family that Bailey had a 70% survival rate.
“He went into chemo again," Lee said. "The doctors threw the book at it, and told us even if he survived it, the long-term effects will last for the rest of his life. He had a stem cell transplant.
“We had to try everything we could.”
Bailey fought hard, and he went into remission again at the end of July.
“We had six weeks at home with him that summer. It was amazing,” his mother Rachel said.
However, at the end of August the cancer had come back stronger than ever, with doctors delivering the news that nothing could be done.
"She [the consultant] broke the news to us. It was late stage four, and it was even worse. It was very aggressive.”
The cancer had spread quickly. Lumps were found in little Bailey’s chest, lungs, liver and stomach.
"She told us there wasn’t very long left – it was only days or weeks."
We went into the room he was in. Bailey was only nine, but we were very open with him. We told him straight away. He broke down and said he didn’t want to go on his own.
"We stayed there with him, and in a couple of hours, he took it all in. He gave us a smile and said ‘let’s go home'.
"He wanted to process it and needed reassurances what was going to happen after he died.”
When Bailey knew he was going to pass away. He started making plans for his own funeral and wanted everyone dressed up in superhero costumes.
We didn’t think he would last that long, but he was determined to meet Millie. It got to the end of November, and Millie was born.
"He hugged her and did everything an older brother would do – change her, wash her, sing to her,” Rachel said.
“But week by week, he got dramatically worse. He would be down and sleeping on the sofa a lot, and sometimes in bed unresponsive. It was difficult.”
“Doctors said he was going to go before Millie was born. He didn’t. He fought, and on the way to hospital, he said we should call her Millie.
“But the moment after he met her, he began to taper off quickly. He was slipping away.”
Speaking about his new baby sister, he said: "I want to stay but it's my time to go to become her guardian angel."
On Friday, December 22, Bailey was taken by ambulance to the hospice. He had become unresponsive as the cancer wrecked his body. By the time he went in, they had to put him on strong painkillers.
“We sat there hour by hour, watching him slip away. We read him stories, and listened to his favourite music,” Rachel recalled.
“By 11.45am on Christmas Eve, we were by his bedside. We knew it was not going to be long. We told him ‘it’s time to go Bailey, stop'.
“The moment we said ‘stop’, he took his last breath and had just the one tear come out of his eye. It was peaceful.”
“We are numb, but in a way also happy he is no longer in pain,” Lee said.
Rachel added: “The hardest thing is living without him.
Hundreds of people dressed in superhero costumes flocked to Bailey’s funeral last Sautirday.
"We have to carry on for Bailey. He told us in our last family meeting 'you’re only allowed to cry for 20 minutes, we have to take care of Riley and Millie'.”