As an 11-year-old, Kieran Wood came home from school one day and declared, out of the blue, ‘I want to find the cure for cancer!’
In a tragic twist of fate, he would be diagnosed with this deadly disease just a few years later, which eventually robbed him of his life last week, at the tender age of 17.
It left his parents, Nikki and Stephen, mourning the loss of their only son, and they have paid tribute to their beloved boy who they have described as special and lovable.
But from the day that he expressed his desire to find a cancer cure, plucky Kieran never wavered from fulfilling his vow – with dreams of one day becoming a geneticist.
And it’s this attitude which summed up Kieran, and personified his courageous battle with leukaemia. He was determined. He knew what he wanted. He would never give up.
In the words of his father: “My nickname for Kieran from a young age was Trooper, but we now say that he proved himself to be a warrior.
“It is ironic that at the age of 11, he came home from school one day and announced out of the blue to us ‘I want to find the cure for cancer!’
“But he never wavered. This desire of his led him to learn about genetic research and how this is a great power in the fight to beat cancer, so his ambition was to become a geneticist and he would of done!”
Tragically, Kieran would experience his very own fight to beat cancer. He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia on February 26 last year.
It all started with a red-hot lump on his leg and Kieran began to go from his fit, healthy self to becoming weak, pale and covered in a rash.
Originally, it was thought that he may have been suffering from meningitis, but then the diagnosis came – it was cancer.
Remembering that moment, Nikki said: “It was a bit of a shock when he was diagnosed. He was very poorly at the time, but he took it in his stride and he was very strong.
“He didn’t want anyone to know that he was poorly, because he didn’t want to be known as ‘Kieran with cancer’, he just wanted to be Kieran.
“He never gave up. Even when he relapsed in August last year, when we were told that he had an aggressive form of leukaemia, he said ‘that’s fine, I will beat it’.
“The Great North Children’s Hospital became his second home and he even sat his GCSEs in hospital – passing every one.”
His incredible strength of character encouraged doctors to put Kieran forward for a trial drug called blinatumomab, which is a type of biological therapy. Strict criteria for those able to take the trial included the stipulation that patients must be over the age of 18, but doctors put Kieran forward, despite him being younger. The family did manage to have a lovely Christmas together, but he relapsed again shortly after and his condition deteriorated. He died before he could take the trial drug.
Nikki said: “Kieran made us glow with pride every day and has filled our lives with so many special memories.
“Kieran will never be truly lost to us as we carry him with us in our hearts and thoughts.”
In a fitting tribute to Kieran, his parents are hoping to publish a book – which their beloved son started, but never got the chance to finish.
The talented teenager was working on the fantasy piece before he died and Nikki and Stephen are determined to get the piece published in his memory.
Nikki said: “He spent countless hours on it, which included drawing maps to go with it. It is unfinished, but I will be approaching a company regarding publishing it for us.”
Nikki said they are unsure whether they will try to finish it first, on Kieran’s behalf, or try to publish it in its current, incomplete form.
Nikki said: “I haven’t read it yet. At the moment it is unfinished, but we will see how it goes.
“There may be another child somewhere who might like to finish it, but we need to read it first and see what happens.”
Kieran’s work summed up his love for books.
Stephen said: “Reading was a huge thing in Kieran’s life. He just drank in a book.”
It wasn’t just reading that Kieran enjoyed. He certainly was a teenager with many hobbies.
He dreamed of seeing the world and wanted to go away for a year to experience as many sites and cultures as possible.
Like his dad, he adored history, and many trips were to places he had read about, like Olympia in Athens or the trenches in France.
Active Kieran enjoyed long walks on the beach. He was also passionate about the sport of fencing and when the family lived in Norwich, he was able to train and compete in competitions, but he had to give it up after moving away from Norfolk.
However, he was looking forward to restarting this hobby at Newcastle University, where he was aiming to study.
He enjoyed Warhammer, Dungeons and Dragons, and playing the Xbox.
He also had a passion for Lego, fuelled from a very early age.