Cristian doesn't like to lose. He's not happy if 'Fortnite' doesn't go his way. He is shy about having his photo taken, but mischievous when not in the limelight. He has a strong character, his mother says, and is generally coping well with his present situation. However, it is desperate.
For Noelia Rubio the past few months have been very difficult. Towards the end of May, her son was diagnosed with an advanced grade four brain stem tumour. The maximum grade is five. The technical name given to it is DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma).
"It was after a school activity. Cristian likes to dance and he took part in a ballet about the film Coco. He wore a costume and we painted his face. Afterwards, he complained that his eye was hurting and we took him to the health centre. They prescribed eye drops because they thought it was a reaction to the face paint, but about a week later I noticed that his eye was moving in a strange way and took him straight to the hospital. He had a CAT scan and then they broke the news to me," says Noelia who, despite everything, radiates energy and positivity.
She was told the tumour was inoperable and that her son probably had just seven months to live. It was a desperately hard, but she decided to use social media to spread the word, thinking that the more people who knew about Cristian's case, the better.
"We made it very clear we weren't asking for money. We wanted second opinions and to know about studies which might hold a solution for Cristian and other children in the same situation," says Noelia. The family is overwhelmed by the response. The messages of support keep coming in and reports of similar cases, and famous people have shared 'We are with Cristian' on their social media profiles.
Protons, a chance of life
The most recent step has been a visit to the Niño Jesús children's hospital in Madrid, where specialists agreed that an operation would be very risky and almost impossible, because it would need precision which is beyond the skill of any human. The slightest mistake could leave Cristian paralysed or even worse.
The little boy is having radiotherapy, but its success may be limited. Another possible solution is proton therapy, but that is not available in Spain. However, there has just been some excellent news: a business owner who wishes to remain anonymous has come forward and offered to pay for Cristian to have this therapy in another country, despite the cost, which can be 80,000 to 100,000 euros.
"It is not right that Spain doesn't have this type of medical equipment," he said.
Cristian's condition is stable at present and Noelia is waiting for the next medical appointment to see whether the radiation is working. If not, then proton therapy may be the only answer.