Boy, 8, Whose Face Had 'Swollen Up' Diagnosed With Rare Blood Cancer

An 8-year-old boy whose face had "swollen up" has been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.

Jake Whittingham, who lives in Barnsley, northern England, began to feel poorly in November last year. Initially, his family thought he might have contracted a winter infection, which is not unusual for him.

On November 11 the parents noticed that their son had "swollen up," his uncle, Aidan Whittingham, told news website YorkshireLive.

The family rushed Jake to hospital, where doctors found that his heart and kidneys had begun to fail.

"They actually saved his life that day and it was touch and go about whether he'd get through that day," said Aidan Whittingham.

Just days before his 9th birthday, Jake was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia—a rare cancer that affects the body's white blood cells. The cancer progresses quickly and requires immediate treatment.

He has since undergone numerous blood transfusions, lumbar punctures and bone marrow extractions, as well as ongoing aggressive chemotherapy.

"Heartbreakingly, this nightmare will be his reality for the next few years," his uncle wrote on a GoFundMe page. The fundraiser has been set up to help the family adapt their home and garden to accommodate the wheelchair that Jake now uses.

"He continues to make us all amazingly proud with his bravery and resilience."

The boy is autistic and has sensory issues, which include an aversion to being touched sometimes, making his hospital experiences even harder.

"So, for him to even put up with what they were doing in the hospital you could tell he was really ill, because otherwise he'd have been kicking and screaming, but he just sat there and let them get on with it," Aidan Whittingham told YorkshireLive.

The boy spent two weeks in hospital—where he passed his ninth birthday—and was discharged in time for Christmas. But doctors have warned the family that he has a long road ahead.

"He should be expected, hopefully, to make a full recovery," his uncle said. "We don't know as of yet, but when doctors have explained it, it's pretty much at least two years treatment minimum and how he responds to treatment is going to be the basis on how long it ends up being.

"The outlook is positive, he's reacted to the chemotherapy and the cancer cells in the tests that they're doing and his bone marrow, they are low—they are still there but they are coming down."

A child in a hospital bed
Stock image showing a child in a hospital bed. A boy whose face had “swollen up” was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia shortly before his ninth birthday. iStock