A couple from Upper Beeding, who have dedicated their lives to helping disabled and vulnerable young children, had their roles reversed when they discovered their five-year-old had cancer last year.
Zoe and Karen Rusbridge Anstey suddenly found themselves needing support when their son Tate was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour on Boxing Day.
He was rushed to hospital in Southampton the same day and underwent three brain surgeries in a week to remove most of the tumour.
But that was just the beginning of their journey, as nine months of ‘hardcore’ treatment followed.
Zoe, who also has a three-year-old daughter, Nell, with Karen, said: “It’s a massive trauma for all the family.”
However she said Tate had repeatedly confounded doctors’ expectations over the months – and was physically mobile despite being told he might not be able to walk again.
“He is absolutely incredible,” Zoe said. “I’m totally in awe of him and how he has dealt with it.”
Zoe and Karen, who between them have worked with children for 45 years, most recently through Brighton and Hove Council, said their professional experience had come in handy throughout their cancer journey.
Zoe said: “Certainly in terms of having medical knowledge and not having any fear of consultants, we weren’t afraid to ask questions and to disagree.
“We’ve been part of the professional team, as well as being his mums.”
Throughout the last year, Zoe has been writing down ‘snippets’ about the family’s experience on her blog thetword.uk which is designed to help others affected by childhood cancer.
“It’s a very intense and scary world you get thrown into,” she said.
“If my blog helps just one or two people, that’s a good thing.”
The pair are also very grateful to those who have supported them by contributing to a fundraising page, which has been an ‘incredible’ help to the family over the last year.
Zoe said it has helped them keep a roof over their heads and pay the bills, while allowing both her and Karen to cut down on work so that they could focus on helping Tate and caring for Nell.
While Tate’s treatment is now completed, Zoe said the ‘next chapter’ awaited as there was still a lot of rehab necessary – not all of which can be done on the NHS.
“We want to make sure that Tate reaches his full potential,” she said.
To contribute to the fund to help the family, visit the fundraising page here.