WHEN Christopher Bond started complaining of a sore neck his parents thought it was the after-effect of the kind of tumble small boys take when trying to play football while wearing roller-skates.
Six months later they are fund-raising for life-saving treatment at an American hospital in the latest stage of his battle to recover from a brain tumour.
The NHS is funding revolutionary proton beam radiotherapy treatment, not yet available in this country, for 10-year-old Christopher, of Saxifrage Drive, Stone.
But mum and dad, Angharad, 36, and Phillip, 44, need to pay for a stay of eight to 10 weeks at the Oklahoma hospital with their young son.
And Mrs Bond, a pharmacy technician at Stafford Hospital, and her husband, a service engineer at Alstom, are aiming to raise as much as possible so they can donate the surplus to children's cancer charities and Alder Hey Children's Hospital, where Christopher was operated on.
Mrs Bond explained: "We took Christopher to see Dr Richard Payne at the Cumberland House surgery when he started complaining about his neck - and Dr Payne is now my hero because he saved his life by referring him for tests.
"Christopher was as lively as usual and didn't have any symptoms that suggested a brain tumour, but an MRI scan at UHNS in October found something suspicious.
"And by 9.30pm that night we were at Alder Hey."
The hospital found a five-inch long tumour at the base of Christopher's brain, stretching to the fourth vertebra on his neck.
An 11-hour operation by neurosurgeon Benedetta Pettorini followed later that month to remove it. The complex surgery also involved removing a vertebra from Christopher's neck to get at the growth.
But the Walton Priory Middle School pupil bounced back quickly and left hospital a week later, though he could not return to school until January, to guard his spine from injury while it healed.
His mum recalled that the first question he asked when he came round from the anaesthetic was how soon he could have a bacon sandwich.
However, a follow-up scan in March revealed early signs of the tumour growing again - necessitating a visit to the US for ground-breaking cancer treatment.
Mrs Bond explained: "Normal radiotherapy is too scatter-gun for a tumour near the brain stem and the spinal cord, and could have serious side-effects.
"The proton beam therapy targets the tumour directly."
But it is a lengthy process - Christopher will need a special mask tailor-made to hold his head in the correct position, and will then have five half-hour treatments a week for six weeks, followed by a recuperation period.
"We are so lucky to have the NHS," Mrs Bond said. "They have been magnificent throughout and have acted really quickly to get Christopher approved for treatment in the US.
"If we were Americans we'd have to sell our house and our kidneys to pay for this kind of care."
She also paid tribute to her friends at Stafford Hospital, and Mr Bond's Alstom colleagues, who are busy fund-raising on their behalf, along with many of Christopher's schoolfriends and their families.
"We really need much more research into childhood cancers and brain cancers, but the money is not there," Mrs Bond added."So anything we can raise will make a real difference."
The family are due to fly out to the US at Easter, leaving Christopher's half-sister Anna Renshaw, aged 22, herself a children's nurse, at home.
Christopher, meanwhile, is reacting to the prospect of more treatment with his usual good cheer.
"It's annoying that I need to go to hospital again, but I am quite looking forward to going to America," he said. "I want to visit Disneyland."
Donations can be made at www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-christopher-/150180