Toddler diagnosed with cancer after rash found on his ankle – signs of leukaemia to spot

Ashley Cain and Safiyya discuss early signs of leukaemia

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Sharon Hilton from Southport, Liverpool, became concerned after she found a rash on her three-year-old son’s leg. At the time Max started off suffering with up-and-down temperatures and a recurring limp. Assuming that it was just a bug that Max had picked up from nursery, it wasn’t until the third time the limp and temperature appeared that Sharon and her partner Michael Tobin also found a rash on Max’s leg.

Talking to the Liverpool Echo, Sharon said: “We noticed a little rash on his ankle, nothing major or really scary it was little dots and bruising but we didn’t know what it was at the time.

“We took him to the GP and on the same day they sent us straight to hospital. We described that he had been a bit more tired recently and a little bit off his food but nothing exceptional.”

On arrival at the hospital in Ormskirk, West Lancashire, Max underwent multiple blood tests. The concerned parents were warned by one doctor that leukaemia was a possibility, but remaining hopeful they never thought it would be more serious than an infection.

Sharon, who is also mother to Jamie, 12, continued to say: “It was a shock really. As a mum, when a child gets symptoms you Google it, I’m sure everyone else does that. [Leukaemia] did come up when I googled it but I didn’t think at the time that was it.”

“There was no reaction initially just because we could not process the information.” Sharon added. “After the first two days we took it in turns to have a breakdown because at the time you don’t know the ins and outs of the illness and you don’t know what’s going to happen, you just think the worst at that point. There are no words to describe that feeling at the time.”

Since diagnosis, Max who is now six years old has undergone various types of chemotherapy. These three years of maintenance treatment are due to finish next month.

After the treatment stops, the family face an agonising wait for his immune system to build itself back up again and living life without the protection of chemotherapy.

Sharon added: “He’s doing really well with his treatment. He had a really tough beginning to treatment and got a really bad infection which could have ended things there.

“It wasn’t cancer at that point, it was the infection really. He got through that and went onto maintenance which is a three year treatment process.

“It’s long and when you start it you can’t see the end to it because three years is such a long time. His bloods are still up and down and he gets illnesses really easily but he’s managing treatment as best he can.”

As this month is also Blood Cancer Awareness Month, Sharon and Michael want to send a message to parents who may be in the same situation as themselves.

Signs of Leukaemia

The rash that Max experienced is known medically as petechiae. The rash appears due to tiny blood vessels called capillaries bursting underneath the skin. This leads to tiny red, purple or brown spots to emerge on the skin, giving the appearance of a rash.

As the leukaemia progresses the multiplication of abnormal white blood cells disrupts the production of platelets meaning that individuals are left vulnerable to infection.

According to Medical News Today, an insufficient number of healthy blood cells can cause a range of other skin problems including bruising easily, pale skin and bleeding easily.

Along with a rash and skin conditions, other symptoms that might be indicators of leukaemia include the following:

  • Fever or chills
  • Persistent fatigue, weakness
  • Frequent or severe infections
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
  • Recurrent nosebleeds
  • Excessive sweating, especially at night
  • Bone pain or tenderness.

When to seek medical help

If you notice any of these symptoms or become worried about any unusual skin conditions it is important to book an appointment with your GP.

Leukaemia symptoms can be vague and nonspecific, which make them easy to misdiagnose and ignore.

Sharon offered this advice for any parents or children going through a difficult time: “As parents, I think me and Max’s dad have found it extremely important to talk to somebody. There are a lot of charities that have counsellors for parents and some hospitals do offer that option.

“It’s only really hit us over the last year and we’ve both struggled a lot. We’d say to any parent who’s starting out on this journey that it’s really important to look after yourself as a parent and to get help from a GP or to talk to a councillor.”

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