Walk for Harris: Skye parents “humbled” by community kindness

Peter and Ruth with Harris at the recent sponsored walk held at Broadford Primary School.

The parents of a Broadford primary pupil who has recently returned home after 19 months of cancer treatment have been “humbled” by the kindness shown by the community following a fundraising walk held recently at the local school.

On Friday (9th October), Ruth and Peter Morrison were joined by all the pupils and staff at Broadford Primary School as well as community members to take part in a special fundraising event.

The walk was in aid of the charity Young Lives Versus Cancer and to celebrate the return of their seven-year-old son Harris who was diagnosed with cancer at the end of 2019.

After spending close to two years away from home to receive the best possible care, Harris recently returned to Broadford Primary to continue his education.

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Explaining how their world was turned on its head in what would be any parent’s worst nightmare, Harris’ mum Ruth told the Free Press: “He started school in August 2019, and around that time we noticed he was having hip problems – he wasn’t able to stand properly. We had X-rays done and it turned out he had a dislocated hip.

“He wasn’t looking good towards the end of the year. The week before Christmas we had a doctor’s appointment and they asked to see him again in a week’s time, so on the day before Hogmanay we saw the doctor and she put us straight to Raigmore. 

“The following morning, they did an ultrasound of his tummy, and they found a tumour on his adrenal gland. “

Harris was then taken through to hospital in Aberdeen where he started a regime of chemotherapy but initially his condition didn’t improve. He then underwent another two separate cycles of chemo during the second of which he was also given immunotherapy which sparked an upturn in his health.

For the next 19 months, as well as spending time in hospital in Aberdeen, Harris, Ruth and Peter went back and forth to Glasgow where Harris received radiotherapy and stem cell harvest treatment. 

“Harris was born with a rare syndrome and a very rare genetic disorder, so we have been very familiar with the hospital since his birth, and so we accepted the environment he was in, and the hospital was a norm for us in many respects,” said Peter.

“However, his cancer was unconnected to both his syndrome and his genetic disorder, so it was a tough one to handle.

“It is a nightmare, but there is nothing you can do, you just have to roll with it in a sense.”

For the first seven months of their time away from home, Ruth and Peter stayed in the Archie Foundation parent accommodation situated within the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital in Aberdeen before the Young Lives Versus Cancer charity in association with NHS Highland organised a place for them to stay as Harris’ health improved.

Peter went on to say: “In the last year we had more time out of hospital than we were in – so we were there more or less every second day and sometimes if he became unwell, they we would be back there for weeks at a time, but at least we had a family base from July/August 2020 onwards.”

Drawing awareness to how prevalent cancer is among young children like Harris, Ruth said: ” I still think that people don’t get it, though. Childhood cancer is not rare, there is a ward full of kids. The other parents there have been absolutely amazing with us, they will bring you anything you need, and everyone at the hospitals in Aberdeen, Raigmore and here in Broadford have been amazing – people are phenomenal and kind, along with the community and our school and we are so humbled with that.”

The Morrisons finally returned home on 16th August after 19 months away from Skye.

Free Press photographer Willie Urquhart was in attendance as pupils, fellow parents, and community members joined Peter, Ruth and Harris for the sponsored walk. (story continues below)

Highlighting the positive impact Harris’ school had on making him feel welcome, Ruth said: “They decided that they were going to do a sponsored walk from A to B – Aberdeen to Broadford – which was all in aid of Young Lives Versus Cancer.

“They separated all the children into four house teams, and they all had to do twenty laps of the school – which they all did – they were all brilliant.

“We were the first ones, but the kids who were in their classrooms waiting for their turn, were knocking on the windows and waving, and saying ‘we are doing this for you Harris!’

“It was a lovely atmosphere – and the head teacher Mr. Atkins did every single lap – and the pouring rain I may add.”

Harris has been back at the school for a term and has done well. He is attending three mornings a week at present while receiving treatment every fortnight at home and monthly in Aberdeen.

Looking ahead, Ruth said: “Hopefully by December it will be over, and we can start living properly at home without too many hospital visits then.”

She added: “Mr. Atkins, is truly phenomenal, he is just an amazing man. He fought quite hard to get Harris back to school. 

“Our consultant was astounded by the number of people who wanted us home and would do anything in their power to help us.

“There are no words really to describe what people have done, it is very humbling.

Article by Adam Gordon, images by Willie Urquhart.