Baby diagnosed with rare form of cancer on Christmas Eve


James Gillespie, was diagnosed on Christmas Eve with a rare form of leukaemia called MPAL - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

A mother has spoken of her heartbreak after her one-year-old son, who was diagnosed with cancer on Christmas Eve, suffered a stroke following surgery.  

The family of baby James Gillespie, who is the youngest of six siblings, was given the devastating news on December 24 that he had a rare form of leukaemia called MPAL after he was rushed to hospital following a period of illness.  

Due to its severity, the tot underwent immediate surgery on Christmas Day, followed by intense chemotherapy on Boxing Day, and will have a further three to four years of on-going treatment.  

But the family received another blow as little James suffered a stroke, requiring even more long-term care and treatment.   

James in hospital

James Gillespie, was diagnosed on Christmas Eve with a rare form of leukaemia called MPAL - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

James is now receiving care at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, while his parents travel back and forth from Norfolk to juggle being with him and their other five children.   

Parents David, 42, a self-employed painter and decorator, and Anne-Marie, 44, a self-employed carer, first met as teenagers and live with their family in Alpington, between Norwich and Loddon.  

Their oldest child is 21 and is currently studying at university, while one is in high school, and three in primary school.  

Family picture during a baptism

James Gillespie on the day he was baptised - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

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Mrs Gillespie, who will now become James' full-time carer, alongside being her mother's carer too, said she could not believe how fast everything happened. 

She said: “I had taken him to the doctors, who had prescribed him antibiotics three times before I asked for a blood sample to be taken.  

“We had to have this done at the hospital and within two hours of it being done, I received a call to say we needed to come back to the hospital immediately and to pack an overnight bag. I kissed the kids goodbye and told them not to worry if Father Christmas came while we weren’t there. 

Mum holding baby in carrier

Mum, Anne-Marie Gillespie, with her son James - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

“The consultants then told me our baby James was a very sick child, and he needed treatment straight away. 

“It was hard to take in. We were told he had an extremely rare form of leukaemia and currently there are no clinical trials for it. They are now trying to find the right treatment for him.” 

Father pictured with baby son

Father David Gillespie, with his son James - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Family friend, Sian Aldis, has organised a fundraiser for the Gillespies to help them during this difficult time. So far, nearly £19,000 has been raised by more than 450 donors.  

This fundraiser has been created to support the family during James's treatment and his ongoing care, which will also require a lot of travel, being unable to work, accommodation, and childcare for their other children.  

Some of the funds raised have also been used to buy toys for the Addenbrooke’s Children's Ward as, due to Covid-19, the children are unable to play together as usual and more resources are required.  

Baby in a party hat

James Gillespie, before he was diagnosed - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Mrs Gillespie added: "He is a very happy, relaxed and chilled out boy, who loves playing with his musical toys and in his ball pit. 

"I knew, in my heart of hearts, something was wrong with James and I would urge parents to get a second opinion if they think something is wrong. 

Family picture

James Gillespie's family all together - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

“We would like to thank everybody for their kind generosity at this very difficult time. We are absolutely overwhelmed by how many people have donated in one way or another and we would like to let you all know that this will make such a huge difference in supporting James through this very difficult time.

"Thank you for everybody's support and prayers during this time.

"And also to the Black Sheep Cricket Club who gave us £500 towards James' appeal and Trio's Catering for supplying meals for my family at home while I am at the hospital."

To donate please visit the Go Fund Me page