A TODDLER returned home from holiday with a rash thatturned out to be cancerous – now his family are warning of the signs to look out for.
Charlotte Squibbs, 38, from Rochdale, noticed small "pimples" spreading across three-year-old Tommy's body but assumed it was heat rash from their holiday in France.
The mum-of-three wasn’t initially concerned, but as unexplained bruising began taking over, panic started to set in.
She and husband Daniel, 40, rushed him to their local doctors, who advised the parents to go to hospital immediately – where he was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Now, the family-of-five are coming to terms with their new reality and are hoping to share their harrowing ordeal in a bid to raise awareness for the signs to look out for.
Charlotte said: “I felt shocked and massively upset, as we had no idea what to expect – we couldn’t help but fear the worst.
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“I’m absolutely heartbroken that our little boy has to go through this and I wish we could trade places.
“It’s been a nightmare come to life and I’m scared about the unknown future of this battle.”
Around 9,900 Brits are diagnosed with leukaemia every year, making it the 12th most common cancer in the country.
The blood cancer is particularly prevalent in people aged 75 or over, but can occur at any age.
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Symptoms include flat red or purple spots on the skin, bruising, pale skin, losing weight without trying, shivering, night sweats and tiredness.
Tommy's family, which also includes Louie, nine and Reggie, six, had just returned from their summer getaway to France on August 28 this year.
His rash started to appear within days, along with signs of fatigue and severe bruising.
At first, it was suspected Tommy, who has Down's syndrome, had caught a viral infection – but after seeing the nurse’s reaction, the parents knew it was something much worse.
The primary school teacher said: “The nurse looked at his body and without a thought, sent us to A&E.
“While there, they did blood tests and this in itself was very traumatic, as his veins were hard to locate.
“He was such a bubbly and outgoing boy, who was always smiling.
“I thought the bruising was because of the rough and tumble fun he has with his brothers, but I was totally wrong.”
On September 4, they received his diagnosis and since then, the ordeal has become even more stressful.
Due to him needing immediate treatment, he was given a blood and platelet transplant, which left Tommy “distraught.”
Charlotte said: “It was such a struggle to get a cannula in and he was holding up his hands and wiggling his fingers to ask them to stop.
“As he’s non-verbal, this was his only way of communicating, which was devastating to watch.”
Now, he’s currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment, but the parents are remaining hopeful and plan to raise awareness for the signs to look out for with other parents.
She added: “He is a little warrior and is fighting this in a way only he could with bravery, courage and lots of smiles.
“Due to his Down's syndrome, he has a lower tolerance for chemotherapy, so his other bodily organs could be affected.
“But we’re only one round in, so we’ll have to see how it goes.
“He has good days and bad days, as do we, but we’re trying to keep positive.
“We’ve both had to give up working for the foreseeable to visit Tommy and look after our two other boys – but we’re very lucky to have an incredible support system around us.
“For any other parents going through this, I urge them to stay positive, take each day as it comes, accept any help offered and look after yourself.
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“You need to be strong for your child and be there when they need you.
“I’m so immensely proud of Tommy with how he’s handling this horrific cancer, but we will continue to fight this together all the way up until he rings that bell in remission.”
What are the symptoms of leukaemia?
Symptoms of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) include:
- skin looking pale or "washed out"
- losing weight without trying
- frequent infections
- having a high temperature, and feeling hot or shivery (fever)
- night sweats
- unusual and frequent bleeding, such as bleeding gums or nosebleeds
- easily bruised skin
- flat red or purple spots on the skin
- bone and joint pain
- a feeling of fullness or discomfort in your tummy
- swollen glands in your neck, armpit or groin that may be sore when you touch them
Source: The NHS
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