The mum of a four-year-old girl battling a rare cancer says she is “amazed” at the kindness of friends, family and strangers.
Already the people of Chorley have raised £15,000 to support little Frankie Garbett, her mum Sandra Kane, dad Dave Garbett and brother Finlay, and now more fundraisers are in the pipeline.
Sandra said: “The fundraising is amazing. It’s such a comfort to us to know how kind people are, even people who don’t even know us.
“Everyone says how she gets under their skin, she’s such a lovely little girl. She’s strong and brave and we need to be that too for her and Finlay.”
Sandra and Dave’s world was turned upside down in October, when six weeks after being told Frankie had a water infection, doctors delivered the devastating blow she actually had a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
In the six months that have followed, she has undergone a gruelling journey of treatment which has included long hospital stays, blood transfusions and intense chemotherapy. Despite this, in January doctors found the cancer had spread and her bladder and uretha had to be removed.
I was told by three different doctors that it was an infection, but eventually I refused to leave and they sent her to Preston for an ultrasound.
Although now tumour-free, Frankie still has to complete another four months of chemotherapy to “mop up” any remaining cancer cells which might attach to another muscle.
The intense treatment has had such an impact on her tiny body that she is the same weight as a two-year-old, and last week had to be rushed into intensive care after her kidneys began to fail.
Fighting back tears, Sandra, 36, said: “I honestly thought that was it last week.
“It’s horrific what chemotherapy does to you. It kills the cancer, but it also kills good cells, particularly all the fast-renewing cells in your body such as the taste buds and lubricating cells, so you end up with mouth sores and thrush.”
Sandra first noticed something was amiss in September when she saw blood in Frankie’s urine. She said: “I was told it was a urine infection and she was given antibiotics. Then for six weeks we had trip after trip to the Urgent Care Centre at Chorley.
“I was taking in samples of her wee, because it looked like Vimto.
“I was told by three different doctors that it was an infection, but eventually I refused to leave and they sent her to Preston for an ultrasound.”
That’s when doctor’s delivered revealed Frankie’s illness was actually rhabdomyosarcoma - a rare cancer of the muscle tissue within her bladder. The tumour measured 5.3cm - a quarter of the size of her bladder.
Sandra was told by specialists at Manchester Children’s Hospital that the cancer is aggressive and can grow quickly within weeks.
She said: “In those six weeks when I was being told that it was a water infection, the tumour could have doubled in size.
“I believe that if they’d done an ultrasound when we first went in, then Frankie would probably still have a bladder now.”
She added: “To other parents I’d say, trust your instincts.
“I’m not a neurotic mum, I’m probably the other way and tell them not to be soft, but you know them better than anyone else and you know when something’s not right.
“If you don’t fight for them, no-one else will.”
In response, Karen Partington, chief executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We appreciate that this is an extremely stressful time for Francesca and her family and we are sorry if we have caused any distress. If Francesca’s family wish to discuss the matter further we encourage them to speak with the staff who are caring for Francesca or to contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service.”
Meanwhile, Sandra and Dave say Frankie’s prognosis is good. They hope she will be able to start school in September.
They are keen to thank friends, family and members of the local community who have rallied round in their time of need.
Before Christmas £15,000 was raised for the couple through a series of sponsored events and a fun day at Astley Hall.
Next month more fundraising is planned in order to support Sandra and Dave, who are a self-employed letting agent and self-employed electrician respectively, and have been unable to work properly since October.
Family friend Sue Essery has organised for 90 people to take part in Born Survivor - a 10k military obstacle course in Macclesfield on May 13.
The group will run as ‘Frankie’s Army’ and fundraising will continue into the night with a charity party organised in Cunliffe Hall in Chorley for the evening, featuring The Voice winner and Liberty X star Kevin Simm, X Factor’s Jonjo Kerr and Kieran O’Brien, who was on Let It Shine.
Sue said: “To see the family go through this is awful and everyone wants to do something to help.
“At first we began fundraising for Frankie to go to America to have proton beam therapy, but that’s not the plan anymore. So instead we want to be able to support the family financially - six months not being able to work is a long time.
“As well as bills, the money will also help the family pay for hotel accomodation when they can’t use the Ronald McDonald house in Manchester.
“But I hope something is left over for Frankie, to give her a good experience.
“She’s a very pretty little girl who was always running around the playground, full of confidence, and now she’s in her pram all the time.”
Several local companies have donated services and goods free-of-charge, as well as raffle prizes including signed football shirts, restaurant vouchers and train tickets.
Sue said: “I thought we’d get about 20 people running Born Survivor, but people are seeing what the family’s going through, and more and more support is coming their way.
“It’s good to see how nice people are. To see a community pull together shows what a lovely place it is.”
To donate, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/frankiegarbett