Mum urges parents to go with “gut instinct” after daughter’s cancer diagnosis

Lailah while on treatment and the youngster now.

A Leyburn mum whose daughter was diagnosed with cancer has urged other parents to “go with their gut instinct” if they think their child is not well.

Doctors told Kelly James her daughter Lailah had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2019.

Lailah was just four at the time.

The diagnosis came as a huge shock to Kelly, who also had a two-year-old son at the time.

She said: “We had never had to deal with a cancer diagnosis throughout any of our family, so this was completely new to us, we didn’t know what to expect, how she was going to cope, or how bad her diagnosis was going to be.

“It was emotionally draining initially, trying to get our heads around what was happening, but we had a lot of support from the community where we live and throughout the hospital too.”

Both Kelly and Lailah’s dad were forced to stop working for the first couple of months while they got to grips with Lailah’s diagnosis and treatment, which would take place at Leeds Children’s Hospital, 60 miles away.

As well as praising the support of the local community, Kelly has also highlighted the importance of local charities in helping families through similar circumstances, including Yorkshire’s children’s cancer charity, Candlelighters, which supports families throughout the region.

Kelly said: “We first heard about the charity a couple of days in, when we were admitted into hospital.

“They came round to discuss what the charity was and how they helped families that were going through this difficult time. Candlelighters have supported us in so many ways, including with funding at the start of Lailah’s journey.

“We’ve also attended a group outside of the hospital with other families affected by childhood cancer, where we can meet and chat with each other, and the children can play and get to know each other too.”

“Candlelighters’ support has massively helped; we know if we were ever struggling with anything we could always talk to someone within the charity, they’ve always shown such care towards Lailah especially the play team members throughout the wards.”

Despite the struggles her family has faced, Kelly is positive about their situation.

“We really do class ourselves as fortunate with Lailah’s journey. She has done remarkably well throughout with not so many setbacks along the way. She’s faced this head on and been an absolute warrior.”

Kelly has urged any other parents who suspect their child may be ill to go with their “gut instincts” and investigate.

She said: “I didn’t know at the time what the outcome was going to be after taking Lailah to the doctors, but I knew there was something wrong with her and I made the doctors see her and do tests.”

Emily Wragg, CEO of Candlelighters, said: “We exist to help ordinary families facing extraordinary circumstances and for over 45 years, we’ve helped countless families navigate their child’s diagnosis with emotional, practical, and financial support.

“Unless you have been through or have been surrounded by experiences of childhood cancer, it is often not understood how far-reaching its impact can be. Candlelighters are there for families from diagnosis and for as long as is needed, wherever that help is needed, whether on the ward, at home or in the community.”

For more information or to make a donation to Candlelighters visit https://www.candlelighters.org.uk/