THREE mums of youngsters affected by cancer are urging other parents to look out for the signs of the killer disease before it is too late.
Jemma Armstrong, Karen McCaffrey and Shelley Humble want the gold ribbon of childhood cancer to be as recognisable as the pink breast cancer ribbon.
The three spoke out as this month is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – but neither of them have seen posters or any material displayed in health centres.
Having all suffered the trauma of having a child diagnosed with cancer, they are anxious that the symptoms become as well-known as those for meningitis, so that all parents know what to look out for.
Jemma’s son Kian, five, was diagnosed with high-risk Stage 4 neuroblastoma in 2012, but the mum-of-four believes symptoms may have started when he was just three weeks old.
She says the symptoms were dismissed by medical professionals.
Jemma, who is married to Neil, 40, said: “Kian could not hold down milk, was constipated from birth and never slept. All are signs of neuroblastoma.”
Despite repeated hospital visits, Jemma was told it could be down to overfeeding.
The Castletown Primary School pupil had aggressive treatment and major surgery, which have left him with life-long side effects from having his bowel removed.
He also suffers from hearing loss and muscle damage, and he may yet lose a kidney.
“As far as we are aware, no GP’s surgery, A&E department or health centre have awareness posters up,” Jemma, 31, said.
“When Kian was diagnosed, he had 40 tumours in his body. It was extremely aggressive. If we had found Kian’s cancer earlier on, the treatment would have been totally different.
“We nearly lost him three times just from the treatment.”
Karen’s only child Beth, seven, who attended the same nursery as Kian, was diagnosed in 2011 with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Shelley’s son Lewis, 13, is also suffering from ALL. Karen, 43, said: “Everyone knows how to spot signs of meningitis, but there is no information anywhere about how to look for the signs of cancer.
“The statistics show that one in 285 will be diagnosed with cancer before they are 20, but Beth is the second in her school. Beth’s only symptom was a sore hip. She didn’t have a single bruise, she wasn’t tired, she didn’t have nosebleeds.”
Karen, who is married to John, 53, added: “We all know what the pink ribbon is, which is massively important. It’s saving lives because of the awareness it has raised.
“We need to make the gold ribbon as popular as the pink ribbon.”
English Martyrs School pupil Beth’s treatment ended a year ago and she is now in remission after going through 27 months of chemotherapy, which caused her to lose her hair three times.