Mad About Harry
28th January 2019
Mad About Harry | Help Harry Banks fight Neuroblastoma
Hoisted aloft by a handful of the country’s biggest rugby superstars, including current England captain Dylan Hartley, sports-mad Harry Banks can barely contain his joy.
But the 10-year-old’s sparkly blue eyes and giggles hide the pain he has endured from battling aggressive cancer twice in four years.
Now just weeks after undergoing brain surgery to remove a two-inch tumour, doctors have warned his parents Nina and Russell that without pioneering treatment in New York or Barcelona, Harry will be hit by neuroblastoma for a third time and the rugby-mad youngster’s chances of survival are low.
Harry’s parents face a race against time to raise £500,000 before mid-March and to ensure they meet their target, some of the biggest names in rugby have come forward to add their weight.
Former rugby international Will Greenwood, Marcus Smith, Danny Cipriani, Harry Mallinder and Dylan Hartley have all gathered at the north London studio of celebrity photographer Rankin (everyone involved has provided their time for free) along with Harry’s brother Oliver, 12 and mother Nina, to help raise the profile of the fundraising campaign.
Greenwood, 46, said he did not think twice when he received a phone call asking for his support and revealed Harry’s plight has struck a personal chord. He said: ‘I’m involved in a charity called Borne [raises money for research into premature birth] and lost my little boy Freddie in 2002 and the brutal fact is that no parent should have to bury their child. So if there is any chance I can help then of course I will.’
Gloucester player and Kelly Brook’s ex Danny Cipriani, 31, added: ‘When I heard about Harry and that he was a big rugby fan and big Saints fan, I made sure I was available to help.’
England captain Hartley, 32, echoes their sentiments. He said: ‘This is a great cause. Harry is a big supporter of rugby and he’s part of the rugby community and we have got to do everything we can to rally around this strong young man and do everything we can to help.’
And Harry’s verdict on his special day: ‘It was good! It was exciting. I liked it when they picked me up. It makes me feel happy because they are here to help me and I just want to say thank you to everyone.’
Harry, who plays for his local rugby club Ampthill in Bedfordshire, was first diagnosed with Neuroblastoma in 2014 at the age of six. One hundred children each year are diagnosed with the condition which currently has no cure.
Harry was initially in remission for two years but just when his family thought he was in the clear, they received the devastating news it had returned in November last year. Harry is now back at the John Radcliffe hospital, Oxford, and is enduring chemotherapy and ongoing clinical investigations.
Revealing her heartbreak, Mrs Banks, who lives in Woburn Sands, Bedfordshire, said: ‘Harry had reached the two year mark for remission and we took a breath and thought he was going to be ok and then this happens [the return of the cancer] out of no where and it was a huge shock. I was heartbroken. We were initially told there was no cure if Harry relapsed but he now has a chance if he goes to New York or Barcelona and this is why we are carrying out this fundraising campaign.
‘Our consultant has recommended this treatment and has said if it was his child he would do the same which is good enough for me.’
The pioneering trial abroad, which costs half a million pounds, is for 8H9, known as Omburtamab and is being carried out at the Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Centre in New York which has offered Harry a place.
The new drug carries radioactive iodine directly to the cancer to kill it. Doctors have recommended Harry's treatment starts in around eight weeks.
Mrs Banks said the support from England’s top rugby stars and Rankin has been phenomenal and has been a big boost to the family’s morale.
Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith, 19, read about Harry’s story on his Instagram feed and was so moved he pledged to help immediately. The Harlequins star said: ‘I saw that Harry has always got a smile on his face and he’s going through these difficult times. Seeing him here at this photoshoot looking so lively and having fun, I look at Harry and I realise I have nothing to complain about.’
For Northampton Saints player Harry Mallinder, 22, there was never any doubt he would be willing to help. The England star said: ‘My club reached out to me and asked me if I would support Harry and I said of course I would. My knee injury is irrelevant compared to what he is going through.’
Mrs Banks added: "We are very lucky to have such supportive family, friends and help from the rugby community and Rankin, but to achieve this target we need everyone to get behind the fundraising and make a difference.
"I will never allow myself to lose hope. Harry is a strong, very stubborn little boy, and he/we will fight this."