Sheffield boy, 5, diagnosed with rare blood cancer just days after grandfather’s death

A Sheffield family has been left devastated after their five-year-old boy was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the blood cells.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 10:07 am

Josh Collins was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, caused by a genetic mutation in the blood, just days after his grandad died from cancer.

His mum Harriet Clark, 41, said she thought Josh had contracted a virus when he suddenly had a sore throat, runny eyes and leg pain in July last year.

But she was left heartbroken when he was given the shock diagnosis, which came just hours after she had said her final goodbyes to her father.

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Joshua Collins aged 5 who is diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, pictured with his mum Harriet and dad Ben at their home at Sheffield.

The condition affects around 325 children a year in the UK, and is caused by a genetic mutation which releases immature white blood cells into the blood stream.

Josh has since been undergoing treatment on the Cancer and Leukaemia ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Harriet, said: “It’s hard to articulate how we were feeling, I was in a bit of shock. I was starting the process of grieving for my dad.

“We weren’t expecting the diagnosis at all. It was all a bit of a blur, everything happened so quickly.

Joshua Collins aged 5 who is diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, pictured at his home at Sheffield.

“It just becomes about what you have to do – and doing anything and everything you can do.

"We couldn’t go to my dad’s funeral and I just had to temporarily hit pause on all that emotion.

“We felt instinctively at that point that we should be at Sheffield Children’s – not only to get home, but because we know how good the care is and how lucky we are to have it here.

“They were incredibly supportive, took control of the situation and that’s what you need as a parent – it allowed us to focus on Josh."

She said: “We were staying in Poole in Dorset, where my father lived. He had cancer and sadly it had very quickly spread so we were saying goodbye.

“Josh had been poorly for around a week while we were there.

“We thought it was a virus. He had a sore throat, runny eyes, he said his leg hurt. We arranged a Covid test, which was negative and then he said he couldn’t put weight on his leg.

“We rang 111 and they advised us to take him to A&E. They took some blood and said they believed it was leukaemia.”

Following six months of intensive treatment, Josh is now into the maintenance phase, continuing to have chemotherapy orally for at least the next two and a half years.

Harriet said: “I feel safe and at home on the Cancer and Leukaemia ward, it is always where I would choose to go because the care is wonderful, but such a leading centre with a brilliant reputation really does deserve improved facilities.”

Harriet’s best friend Lucy Seymour-Kellehers has decided to go on a 190 mile walk along the coast-to-coast path from one side of the UK to the other to raise funds for the hospital’s Oncology and Haematology Ward.

Lucy said: “I was absolutely devastated at the news.

“Not being able to help with childcare when Joshua has been in hospital has been frustrating, so I felt like I needed to do something to show them that they are not alone, and to make a genuine difference.”

Visit here to support the fundraiser.