Storytelling helps County Durham boy through cancer treatment

BRAVE youngster Harry Coulson and his family celebrate the end of his grueling cancer treatment.

The six-year-old, from South Hetton, County Durham, has undergone life-saving treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia at Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle for over three years.

During his treatment, he had to undergo eight months of intensive chemotherapy, two years and eight months of daily and weekly oral chemotherapy, regular doses of steroids, clinic visits, lumbar punctures, blood checks and spend 50 nights in the hospital.

Parents Joanne Johnson and Mike Coulson said their world came crashing down on April 6, 2018, when Harry was diagnosed with ALL.

“When you first hear the devastating news, your life stands still and the world around you moves on in slow motion. It’s hard to grasp the gravity of the situation, but we had to be strong for Harry,” Joanne said.

“We are such proud parents – our little boy has endured so much, and we couldn’t be more proud. He never complains and just carries on.”

After his treatment, Harry’s parents paid tribute not only to the medics who cared for him, but also to the “inspiring” storytelling sessions delivered by Henry Dancer Days, a childhood cancer charity.

The family was regularly visited by the charity storyteller, Shelley O’Brien, who were online during the pandemic.

Shelley adapted her stories to Harry’s taste – with favorites like Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and stories of steam trains, trams, buses and Marvel superheroes – and the family enjoyed dressing up sessions on themes such as pirates, 1920s, trains, Paris and London.

Joanne said: “Harry and Shelley learned right away. It was the first time we all laughed as a family since Harry’s diagnosis. Our sides were splitting. Shelley was so animated that the story came to life.

“It certainly set a precedent for the rollercoaster of fun activities and great times ahead. I can honestly say that the Henry Dancer Days Storytelling definitely got us through our long journey.

“Storytelling has transformed Harry from a shy and sometimes scared boy into a chatty and confident boy.”

The sessions also helped Harry develop his vocabulary as he did not qualify for hospital education as he started treatment before school age.

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