YOUNG rugby lover Archie Hamilton is currently bravely battling a rare type of bone cancer – and the rugby community in Haddington and further afield have rallied round to fundraise for him and his family.
Archie, now 16, was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma when he was 15. The tumour, located at the base of Archie’s spine, is inoperable and he is currently undergoing a regime of radiotherapy in Manchester.
Archie has been involved with the Haddington club in East Lothian since he was in the minis and in recent times, either side of the pandemic, has been part of the club’s School of Rugby tie-up with Knox Academy.
“I have a background myself in rugby, I certainly didn’t push Archie in that direction, but it has been the sport he has really loved for many years,” explained Archie’s father Robin, who has rugby links to Leith and Trinity Accies and played for Scotland under-18s.
“He took up rugby when he was in primary one and he was playing for the under-16 team just prior to his diagnosis.
“Last year his cancer was originally put down to being a sporting injury. He was taking part in pre-season training and he tweaked his hamstring and then his back was bothering him.
“A doctor diagnosed it as sciatica and the physios thought the same, but it seemed strange that a 15-year-old was having such back pain so we got an X-ray done and then we pushed for an MRI scan.
“When the MRI scan was done the cancer was picked up and at that time we heard that this specific type of cancer was often thought to just be a sporting injury at first, as had happened with Archie.
“It was obviously a lot more serious than a sporting injury and in the middle of October last year treatment started almost straight away and the health professionals that have been involved cannot be faulted.
“In total he has to go through 14 rounds of chemotherapy and he has got about three rounds to go, but currently he is in week six of six in Manchester.
“He is getting proton beam therapy which is a targeted radiotherapy and the Christie NHS centre in Manchester is the only place in the UK currently doing it.
“Between Monday and Friday in recent weeks he has had 30 proton beams each week targeted at the tumour to try and eradicate it alongside chemotherapy.
“My wife Lyn is down there with Archie and I managed to take my daughters Nancy and Murin down to see him at Easter time. We talk on face-time every day, but it’ll be great to have him back home in a few days.”
Archie’s return home will mean that he and his dad can watch the end of the Women’s Six Nations, Super Series Sprint action and Glasgow Warriors’ season run-in on television together. Its a shame Archie’s favourite player won’t be in action in any off those tournaments
“Archie has always enjoyed watching Hamish Watson play, so it was a real boost to him in March when our good friend from Haddington Keith Wallace [now the Scottish Rugby vice-president] told us that we would be going to the Scotland men’s captain’s run the day before the Ireland match in the Six Nations,” Robin explained.
“At Murrayfield he got his photo taken with a lot of the players, Hamish and captain Jamie Ritchie included, and it was a really nice break from treatment. All of the guys and Gregor Townsend were very welcoming as were the Scottish Rugby employees.
“The next day we were at the Ireland match, and Archie is also a big fan of Darcy Graham who took time out to send him a video message which was really nice. Edinburgh Rugby have been great.
“The support from all the rugby community has been heart-warming.”
Haddington club are running an online auction and donations can also be made via the portal.
So far nearly £2,800 has been raised and there are some brilliant lots in the auction which runs until May 13th.
These include a signed British & Irish Lions strip, a chance to watch Edinburgh train, a week’s accommodation in a five star apartment in Turkey and lots more.
“Archie and his family are a very important part of Haddington RFC and the local community, so the club wanted to do anything it could to help,” Wallace said.
“This is the second time the Hamilton family have had their lives turned upside down as Archie’s sister Nancy was diagnosed with Dystonia [a neurological movement condition for which there is no cure] seven years ago.
“The emotional, financial and logistical problems facing the family are hard to imagine.
“To support Lyn, Robin, Archie, Nancy and Murin in this time of need, we are promoting this auction is an effort to help the family financially through a prolonged period of increased costs and reduced income.
“A big thanks to local individuals and organisations who have donated auction lots and to all who make bids and donations, it is much appreciated.”
With April being Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Awareness Month, Archie and his family are keen to raise awareness of the kind of challenges they have faced, and to help others who are in a similar position.
Cancer is different in young people. They have very different needs to younger children and older adults facing this disease, so they need a special, tailored approach to improving cancer diagnosis, treatment, care and support.
The far-reaching impact of cancer does not end when treatment ends. Quality of life and learning to live well with cancer is vital, too. The impact of a cancer diagnosis can continue for many years.
To get involved with the auction and fund raising for Archie and his family, click HERE.