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Mum’s warning after toddler’s ‘bruises from playing’ were actually cancer

A mum who thought her toddler’s bruises were from play fighting was left devastated by his cancer diagnosis.

Kimberley McFarquhar, 31, noticed her son Harry, then three, had some small bruises on his legs in May but put it down to him being a typical energetic toddler who had fallen over a lot.

But when the tot, now four, started experiencing breathing difficulties and covid was ruled out, Kimberley and 37-year-old mortgage representative husband James McFarquhar believed he had a chest infection.

After a couple of trips to the GP and hospital, the couple were stunned when doctors diagnosed him with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and started him on intense treatment just 12 hours later.

Harry was dubbed a ‘miracle’ baby after office worker Kimberley was told they wouldn’t be able to conceive due to chemotherapy James, who is now in remission, had for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in 2015.

Despite being in remission for a blood-based cancer, James has been assured by several consultants that Harry’s subsequent diagnosis is unrelated and simply an ‘awful coincidence’.

After a couple of trips to the GP and hospital, the couple were stunned when doctors diagnosed him with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia


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Four months into Harry’s gruelling chemotherapy treatment, the mum-of-one is sharing the family’s experience to urge parents to get any unusual symptoms checked out.

Kimberley, from Northampton, East Midlands, said: “When I heard the word ‘leukaemia’ I just thought ‘he’s going to die’.

“Around the time Harry was diagnosed Ashley Cain’s daughter Azaylia had just passed away from leukaemia and that was fresh in my mind.

“I couldn’t get that thought out of my head, it was horrific.

“It was a massive blow, you just don’t think it will be something that will ever happen to you.”

Harry started looking pale in February and, under the recommendation of Kimberley’s nurse mum Claire Hancock, he was checked out at the doctors


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Playful Harry started looking pale in February and, under the recommendation of Kimberley’s nurse mum Claire Hancock, he was checked out at the doctors and underwent a blood test to rule out anaemia that came back clear.

At the beginning of May the tot was experiencing tiredness and had some bruises on his legs – things that Kimberley put down to him running around and playing with pals at pre-school.

When Harry started experiencing chest infection symptoms he had another visit to the doctors who dished out antibiotics and an inhaler in the hope of clearing it up.

But when he started to struggle breathing, and covid tests came back clear, the couple rushed him to Northampton General Hospital on May 17th to get checked out.

There, doctors examined Harry, took blood tests and the following day told his devastated parents he had leukaemia.

Kimberley said: “We were told we wouldn’t be able to have him because of my husband’s chemotherapy treatment, Harry’s our little miracle.

“Harry was very outgoing, enjoyed being with his friends and going to pre-school – just a normal, happy and healthy child.

Harry during one of his chemotherapy sessions


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“He started looking pale in February. My mum’s a nurse and she said it was worth getting a blood test at the doctors as he could be anaemic.

“We did that but it all came back ok. It was around the beginning of May he was getting very tired but we put that down to him being at pre-school and running around playing all day.

“He had bruises on his legs, not really bad, but they were easily passed off as him being a typical energetic little boy.

“He’s forever on his bike and running into things, I just thought he’d been falling over a lot.

“The last thing he got was chest infection-style symptoms. I spoke to the doctor and they said to get a covid test, which came back negative.

“They put him on antibiotics and when they didn’t work they put him on more antibiotics.

Harry celebrating his fourth birthday with his parents Kimberley and and James


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“It got to the point he started having breathing difficulties so we took him straight to our A&E department.

“They did routine blood tests and they wanted to do a chest x-ray as well. When we got there his oxygen levels were very low, which obviously indicated to them that something was wrong.

“He was put on oxygen and the doctors said the initial blood tests came back showing very low platelet levels, which indicated it could be leukaemia.

“I remember thinking ‘god we’ve come in here for what we thought was a chest infection’. We couldn’t believe it. We were like ‘it can’t be, it won’t be’.

“Then he had further tests done that day and later that evening we were sat down and told it was leukaemia called acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Harry in hospital during treatment


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“It was a bolt out of the blue hearing that because it was so unexpected. Kids that age are forever getting viral infections and chest infections because they’re mixing with each other.

“Not only were we told he had leukaemia, the second blow was that the treatment was for three-and-a-half years [in total] for boys.”

When not undergoing intensive bouts of chemotherapy at Northampton General Hospital and Nottingham Children’s Hospital, Harry takes oral chemotherapy medication at home that is so toxic Kimberley and James must wear rubber gloves when administering it.

Kimberley said: “My husband and I have been through it with his illness, it’s such a hard journey and we were thinking ‘how are we going to do this with our little boy?’

“We’re still in the first six months, Harry’s doing ok but it’s very up and down.

“The chemotherapy causes him sickness, nausea and he’s really lethargic, but he’s doing as well as he can be expected.

“It’s hard for anyone, let alone a child.

Harry wearing an oxygen mask before his leukaemia diagnosis


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“It’s heart breaking. I often sit there and wish I could swap places with him. There have been many times I’ve sat there thinking ‘let it be me’.

“If I could, I would take it away from him in a heartbeat.

“Watching your once energetic and playful child just lying in bed not wanting to play, not having the energy to get up and being sick – I can’t explain it, it’s just horrific.”

In a tragic coincidence, Harry’s diagnosis comes six years after dad James was confirmed as being in remission for NHL.

Kimberley said: “James was blaming himself. Leukaemia and lymphoma are both blood cancers.

“If you’ve had one and your child gets it you think ‘oh god this is down to me’ but we asked numerous consultants and they said it was no way connected, just an awful coincidence.”

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and Kimberley is sharing Harry’s story to highlight the symptoms that can appear and to urge parents to get them checked out.

Harry on a hospital bed during one of his chemotherapy sessions


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Kimberley said: “A parent knows their child best and if anyone has any concerns or feels that something isn’t right, I would advise to go get it checked out.

“If you’re still not happy with what you’re being told, just keep pushing.

“We never in a million years thought we’d be affected by this but we have been and it’s so easy for us to pass off the symptoms as something else.

“When you put it all together I would say you know your child best and get these things checked out.”

You can donate to Kimberley’s page here –

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