The parents of a three-year-old girl found out she had cancer after a cute photograph of her falling asleep in a swing turned out to be a symptom of the deadly disease.
Dad Dave Fletcher, 39, thought he was capturing a tender childhood moment when he pictured daughter Izzy dozing off at a playground when she was 23-months-old.
But just a few weeks later Dave and wife Vicky, 37, were left devastated after their toddler daughter’s tiredness turned out to be a sign that she had leukaemia.
The battling youngster has since undergone 570 doses of gruelling chemotherapy and is now receiving maintenance therapy in a bid to stop the cancer returning.
Dave said he thought nothing of it at first when he snapped Izzy nodding off in the swing at a park near their home in Claines, Worcs.
He is now warning other parents to be vigilant and look out for the tell-tale signs of the disease.
Dave, an auditor, said: “It was just an afternoon pop out to the swings. She was swinging away - I turned around and she had dropped off.
“She was drowsy and fell asleep but I didn’t think much of it. I thought it was a cute moment and just took a picture of her as you do.
“It was only afterwards we realised it was all part of the symptoms and what I’d captured was her displaying signs of something more sinister.
“She had been tired, had had a few colds or viruses, and quite a bit of bruising on her legs. But we put all this down to normal childhood bumps and minor illness.
“You get a bit sentimental, looking at pictures of her before she was ill - you just realise how much she’s been through since at so young.”
The couple first took Izzy to a GP in January last year after a strange rash appeared on her leg.
They were advised to come back several days later for blood tests if the rash had not gone, and to take her straight to hospital if it got worse.
However by the next morning, Izzy’s rash had spread and she then developed a temperature, so her parents took her to Worcester Royal Hospital.
She was diagnosed with leukaemia the same day and began a course of chemotherapy the following week.
Izzy spent her second birthday in Birmingham Children’s Hospital waiting to have a procedure to sample her bone marrow.
As part of her care, Izzy was enrolled on a clinical trial called UKALL 2011 and will remain on treatment until May next year.
This trial aims to see if changing the standard chemotherapy treatment will reduce side effects and help stop their disease from coming back.
Dave added: “She has grown up very quickly and been subjected to medicine she doesn’t like but has taken everything in her stride so far.
“When she was diagnosed it came out of the blue. We were both in real shock as it happened so fast “It was a big unknown. A family member died of leukaemia five years ago, so it was a scary time.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen at that stage or what the future held.
“But we were lucky Izzy was diagnosed quickly and lucky she has coped very well with the treatment, suffering very few setbacks or unplanned hospital admissions.
“The type of leukaemia she has has a better chance of recovery than some others. She is young which helps those odds.
“It makes us more optimistic. She doesn’t have to have so many steroids because of the trial she is on.
“It’s a treatment plan they use in other countries and we are grateful to be given the opportunity.
“It shows just how important research is in pioneering new treatments.
“The NHS doctors and nurses have been brilliant. and we’ve had lots of support from family and friends.”
Brave Izzy has now received a Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens Star Award in recognition of what she has been through.
Vicky, 37, an archivist, said: “Izzy was so excited to receive her award. It was a nice positive experience that rewarded her for struggling on with her treatment.”
Jane Redman, spokesperson for Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens in Worcestershire, said: “Cancer can have a devastating impact on their lives and many of those who survive may live with serious long-term side effects from their treatment.
“Our mission is to fund research to find new, better and kinder treatments for young cancer patients.
“We want to bring forward the day when every child and young person survives cancer and does so with a good quality of life.”
To nominate a child for a Cancer Research Kids & Teens Star Award visit: cruk.org/kidsandteens ENDS