A ‘healthy’ 13-year-old boy who plays for West Ham United’s academy was diagnosed with a 7cm cancerous brain tumour after the right hand side of his body shut down and he heard ‘horrible voices in his head’.
Oscar Ray Fairs has been at the club’s academy since he was six years old and one day dreams of becoming a professional goalkeeper.
Described by his friends and family – including West Ham legend Mark Noble – as ‘invincible’ and ‘heroic’, Oscar underwent surgery to remove the tumour on August 31 after losing the ability to walk and talk.
His mother Natalie Fairs, who works as an emotional literacy support assistant, said ‘it is like a hurricane has gone through our house’ but, remarkably, her ‘brave’ boy is still upbeat and remaining positive.
‘It all really began in December last year when out of the blue he had a panic attack and his heart was beating out of his chest,’ Mrs Fairs told Mail Online.
‘We all thought it was an anxiety attack or he was going through the stages of adolescence, but from March to May he really went to a dark space mentally and he kept telling us there’s something in my head and I can’t get rid of it.
Oscar Fairs, 13, pictured alongside West Ham legend Mark Noble three years ago
A look at the 7cm cancerous tumour that was found in Oscar’s brain after an MRI scan
Oscar has been at West Ham’s academy since he age of six and one day dreams of becoming a professional goalkeeper
‘He said he could hear this voice in his head – in his ear actually – telling him these horrible things like you’re not going to be a goalkeeper for West Ham and other awful stuff I don’t even want to talk about. He also said he could hear his ear breathing.
‘At that time you would have never thought it could be anything like a brain tumour. He was a young, fit healthy athlete so we all just thought he was having mental health issues and we took him to the doctors.
‘The doctors ran blood tests on him and assessed him and they kept just telling us he has hypothetical anxiety – but from May onwards he started to lose feeling in the right side of his body.
‘He couldn’t use his right arm or leg – he lost control of it – and then he was getting even worse headaches and nausea up until the point where he could no longer dress himself or walk without our help.
‘He even had to teach himself how to write left handed at school.
‘He also kept saying he had this feeling that would go from his heart to his right hand then down the side of his right arm and leg and then he’d be sick. And with the headaches, he’d just beg for this “thing” to get out of his head.’
Now reduced to having to be in a wheelchair, Mrs Fairs decided enough was enough and on August 25 she took Oscar to Southend Hospital.
‘That’s when a more serious doctor came in after they saw he couldn’t use his right arm and his smile was lopsided,’ she said.
‘They took us into an empty room and told us to brace ourselves. Then they said our little boy has a 7cm brain tumour.
‘Words honestly can’t describe how that feels as a parent to be told something like that. You see it in the movies, but they haven’t got it right.’
Oscar was then fast-tracked to Great Ormond Street hospital where they performed a nine hour operation to remove 99% of the brain tumour.
Natalie Fairs, pictured bottom right, kisses her son’s head on the way to Great Ormond Street Hospital after being told he had a brain tumour
Mrs Fairs said her son experienced severe headaches, nausea and numbness in the right side of his body for months before being told he had a cancerous tumour in his brain
Oscar has been described by his friends and family – including West Ham legend Mark Noble – as ‘invincible’ and ‘heroic’
The Fairs family, who have said they are amazed by Oscar’s bravery, embrace in a group hug
‘They told us that they didn’t remove that 1% because there was a risk it could take away all of his motor skills,’ Mrs Fairs added.
Five days later the family were then told it was a cancerous tumour and it would be another two to three weeks before they would know what type of cancer it is and what treatment is needed.
Mrs Fairs said: ‘Amazingly, the next day after the operation Oscar said he wanted to start walking. The doctors couldn’t believe it. He is an invincible character, a hero in himself.
‘He hasn’t stopped talking and cracking jokes since. He also has this little thing where he says “watch me” and we see what he can do. He’ll be like watch me get up, watch me start walking.
‘What’s great as well is that he’s said he doesn’t hear the voices in his head anymore and he’s got 90% mobility back, although he now automatically puts his left arm out instead of his right. But we’re just remaining positive and hoping for the best.’
Friends close to the family have set up a GoFundMe page to ‘help make this nightmare just a little bit easier’.
Dona Tulley, who set up the fundraiser on behalf of the family, wrote: ‘Our Oscar is a 13-year-old athletic young man playing for West Ham as a goal keeper, excelling in all avenues.
‘As you can imagine, the Fairs Family World has been turn upside down. The family are now waiting for further tests to determine what cancer this is, and how to best to give treatment.
Oscar pictured in his goalkeeping kit for a pre-season photo at the West Ham United academy
Oscar’s first meal after a nine hour surgery where doctors removed 99% of the tumour
Mrs Fairs, pictured left, said the doctors were stunned when Oscar asked to stand up and walk the day after his operation
Draped in his favourite West Ham colours, Oscar leaves Great Ormond Street Hospital with a smile on his face
‘We have set up this page to help the family with parking, congestion, food, bills general life worries so we can make this nightmare just a little bit easier. Thanking you all for any donations, love and support.’
Those close to Oscar also wrote on the page how he was an ‘amazing young lad’.
One person said: ‘Life is so unfair, hopefully this takes some of the financial pressure off. Big love to Oscar & all the family. X’
Another added: ‘Oscar top lad loved have you training with us at Bowers and you will always be welcome, but this is way more important. Beat this like you trained and it will be no problem.’
A third also said: ‘So, so, so heartbreaking. Hope them football boots are tightly back on your feet soon little man.’
One of Oscar’s former teachers also wrote on the page: ‘Oscar – I am in absolute awe of how brave and strong you are – keep fighting – I need to see you back playing football and back in school where will tell me about all of your tournaments again!
‘To Oscars parents – sending you so much strength and keeping you in my thoughts- no words will make this better I know, but I’m hoping this pays for a car parking at least. Lots of love.’
Donations can be made to the GoFundMe page here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-fairsy-fundraiser-for-our-oscar