8-year-old boy diagnosed with leukaemia just 4 months after his mum died from breast cancer sets up a blog to show “it’s not all bad”

·8-min read

A dad whose youngest son was diagnosed with leukaemia just four months after the little boy lost his mum to breast cancer told how her Boobs Behaving Badly blog inspired him to start a similar blog for his eight-year-old called Fight said Fred.

Devastated by HR manager Emma Gittins’ death, aged just 41, on 30 March 2021, her primary school teacher husband Jamie Gittins, 40, and their sons, Noah, 11, and Freddie, eight, had their world rocked again when they were told the younger son had leukaemia on 14 July.

Jamie, of Hereford, said: “The news of Freddie’s leukaemia just broke me.”

Jamie says he has always taken a very honest approach when discussing both Emma and Freddie’s diagnoses with his children. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Jamie says he has always taken a very honest approach when discussing both Emma and Freddie’s diagnoses with his children. (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “After going through the worst of cancer with Emma, my first thought was that my son was going to die.

“I couldn’t bear the thought of losing both of them.”

Thankfully, since then, Freddie has made strides with his treatment and the family hope that the youngster will soon receive the all-clear.

Emma started a blog to document her treatment. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Emma started a blog to document her treatment. (Collect/PA Real Life)

Jamie says the eight-year-old has taken on the diagnosis like a “warrior,” which would have made his mum very proud.

He said: “Emma kept a blog during her journey with cancer called Boobs Behaving Badly.

“After she passed away there were so many messages from people saying the blog had helped them through their own diagnosis.”

Emma, pictured here with her sons Freddie and Noah, during Christmas 2020. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Emma, pictured here with her sons Freddie and Noah, during Christmas 2020. (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “I knew it had provided a very positive outlook for both Emma and her readers, so I wanted to do the same for Freddie and, over the summer, we set up a blog for him, too, called Fight Said Fred, documenting his cancer journey.”

The family’s world was first turned upside down back in October 2017, when Emma, then 37 was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Jamie said: “She was given the all-clear in August 2018 after having chemotherapy and radiotherapy.”

He added: “We separated in 2018 but remained the best of friends, co-parenting the boys together.

“But a couple of years later, in February 2019, the cancer came back and this time it was terminal.

“We’ve always been very honest with the boys about Emma’s diagnosis. We explained to them that the cancer wouldn’t go away this time.”

Freddie was diagnosed with leukaemia in July 2021. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Freddie was diagnosed with leukaemia in July 2021. (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “We didn’t want to hide anything from them and, looking back, I’m glad we took this approach. They understood as best they could what was happening to their mum and it’s helping them to grieve.”

On 30 March 2021, Emma passed away surrounded by friends and family in Hereford Hospital.

Then, just three months later, Jamie noticed an alarming change in his younger son and asked doctors to see him.

He said: “In June, I noticed that Freddie was really tired all the time – incredibly lethargic. He would come home from school, put on the telly and fall asleep within five minutes.

“By July, I noticed he was getting a yellow tinge to his skin, so I booked a doctor’s appointment and they sent us straight to hospital.

“We were there all night while Freddie had tests done and, at around 1am, a doctor took me off into a private room to explain the results.”

Emma was first diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2017. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Emma was first diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2017. (Collect/PA Real Life)

On 14 July 2021, Freddie was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, an aggressive cancer of the white blood cells.

Jamie said: “I was expecting the doctor to say it was a liver infection, so when I heard leukaemia, I just broke down.

“I couldn’t bear the thought of losing Freddie. We had just buried his mum and now I was panicking that I would also have to bury my son.”

The family are hopeful that Freddie will soon get the all-clear. (Collect/PA Real Life)
The family are hopeful that Freddie will soon get the all-clear. (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “We had barely had any time to process losing Emma before we were back on cancer wards, this time for Freddie.”

One of the hardest parts was telling his son what was wrong with him.

He said: “Freddie was asleep in the hospital bed when I found out. I just sat by his side all night, watching him sleep.”

He added: “When he woke up in the morning, I explained to him that he had cancer and would need to have treatment. I told him he was going to have a terrible few months, but he would get better.

“When he heard the word cancer, he asked me, ‘Like Mummy?’ So, I explained that it was a different type, but that it was cancer, too.”

Then Jamie had to tell his elder son.

Jamie says his son has taken on cancer like a ‘warrior’. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Jamie says his son has taken on cancer like a ‘warrior’. (Collect/PA Real Life)

He said: “Noah came to see Freddie in Hereford Hospital.

“I repeated what I’d told Freddie to Noah. He’s a lot older than his years and he understood.

“I explained to him that chemotherapy would make Freddie better. Noah turned around and said ‘we know what it’s like now.'”

Like his mum, Freddie immediately displayed immense courage after his diagnosis.

Jamie said: “We spent two weeks at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, because his liver and pancreas were inflamed. Once that was under control, Freddie started chemotherapy.

“Nothing has really fazed him. He’s been ridiculously brave. He’s such a warrior.”

Friends have set up a Go Fund Me page to help Jamie create happy memories with his boys. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Friends have set up a Go Fund Me page to help Jamie create happy memories with his boys. (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “He only really got upset when he realised he would lose his hair, because he loves his hair.

“Other than that, he has pretty much accepted all the treatment that has been thrown at him. He’s so resilient.

“He has routine checks on the level of cancer present in his blood and each time, that amount has decreased.”

Now the family hope Freddie will soon receive the all-clear.

Jamie said: “There is now only a tiny trace of leukaemia in his system, so we’re giving that a final kick with chemo and, hopefully, that will mark the end of Freddie’s treatment.

“After that, he will be monitored, regularly at first but then routinely for the rest of his life to make sure it doesn’t come back.”

Emma passed away from breast cancer in March 2021. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Emma passed away from breast cancer in March 2021. (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “I think all three of us are very excited for that day, so that we can start to heal properly and enjoy our future.

“I think Noah has actually probably found this the toughest to deal with.

“He’s felt quite helpless, whereas both Freddie and I have been kept busy with the medical appointments.”

He added: “We’re looking forward to a bit of normality in the future, though.”

Since Freddie’s diagnosis, friends have also set up a Go Fund Me page, to help Jamie pay for some exciting experiences for him to look forward to.

He said: “I was quite overwhelmed by the fundraising page, as I’m not one to ask for help, but Freddie really deserves some fun after what have been a horrible couple of years – both the boys do.”

He added: “Freddie loves wrestling and is obsessed with WWE right now, so we went to see it in Birmingham a few weeks ago.

“It will be nice to create some happy memories with the boys and continue to plan outings like this in the future.”

And Jamie hopes that through Freddie’s blog they can show people that positive things come out of a bad situation.

Jamie says that being a parent of a child with cancer can be a very isolating experience. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Jamie says that being a parent of a child with cancer can be a very isolating experience. (Collect/PA Real Life)

He said: “Finding out your child has cancer is every parent’s worst nightmare come true.

“It’s completely devastating, but I want to get across to people that life doesn’t just stop when you receive that diagnosis. It’s not all bad.

“We’ve had some fun times in hospital, laughing and spending time together as a family, both when Emma was a patient and now with Freddie. You have to make the most of what you have and you have to find a way to keep going.”

He added: “Being a parent of a child with cancer can be a very isolating experience, but it doesn’t have to be either. There is a community of people in the same situation online.

“Emma left such a positive legacy with her blog and I’m proud that we can carry that on now with Freddie’s.”

For Freddie’s blog, visit: www.facebook.com/Fight-Said-Fred-147182874129679

To donate to Freddie’s Go Fund Me page, visit: www.gofundme.com/f/raise-money-for-freddie

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