An eight-year-old boy has been cleared of cancer, three years after his parents were jailed for abducting him from an NHS hospital to seek innovative brain tumour treatment abroad.
Ashya King was due to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy at Southampton General Hospital in August 2014, when his parents fled with him to Spain. They feared the treatment being prescribed by his doctors would leave him badly brain damaged and believed his best chance lay in innovative proton beam therapy being pioneered in Europe.
Brett and Naghemeh King were arrested in Malaga at the behest of the British authorities and jailed in Madrid for 72 hours on child cruelty charges.
But now, having received reassuring news from his son’s oncological team, Brett King said he was overcome with emotion.
At home in Southsea, Hampshire he told the Daily Mail: “'My wife said to me, ‘It's all OK now, there is no need to cry’, but there were so many emotions. Happiness, relief, I can't put it into words.”
He added: “A tumour is like a weed in your garden. You try your hardest to get rid of it, but one day it can just grow back.
“So children are still dying up to two-and-a-half years after their treatment.
“After the three-year mark, though, the chances of it coming back are much less, so we'd been hanging on for the results of this ninth scan.
“The hardest thing was knowing if there was a regrowth, I had no one to blame but myself."
For years, the prospect of losing one of their seven children has loomed over the couple while they faced High Court battles and the possible breakdown of their 30-year marriage.
After surgery in Southampton to remove the tumour, Ashya underwent treatment in Prague in 2014 after the court ruled his parents - who are Jehovah’s Witnesses - had the right to take their son abroad against the advice of the boy’s doctors.
But after an encouraging start, more doctors - this time in Spain - detected abnormal cells and Ashya’s father became “obsessive” about his son’s diet, according to Mrs King.
She told the newspaper: “I told him to just take Ashya for the tests, I knew it would be OK.
“But Brett had convinced himself the tumour had returned. He became obsessive about what Ashya was eating.
“If I gave him a glass of milk Brett would look at it and say: 'There's too much sugar in it.' If I was giving him a banana Brett would say: 'Give him half. There's too much sugar.' I couldn't take it any more.”
Things became so strained she moved to the family’s house in Spain and consulted divorce lawyers, but the couple reconciled after Brett took Ashya for tests, which came back negative.
Now after the most recent MRI scans in Southampton show no signs of a tumour, Ashya is as close as possible to being given the all-clear.
The chatty eight-year old enjoys riding his bike and playing football like any other boy in his class, despite a slight weakness in his right side from the brain surgery in Southampton. He peppers his asks his parents questions like "Why is the sky black at night?" and "Where has the sun gone?"
Dr Hernan Cortes Funes, head of oncology at the HC Marbella International hospital in Spain who has treated Ashya for three years, told the Daily Mail: “This isn't an exact science but three-and-a-half years is a good time to presume he won't relapse.
“He is in remission and there is no sign the tumour will return, although he will need to be monitored with yearly MRIs.”
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