Chorley cancer warrior Frankie says "Race for Life" - at home

A youngster who beat an aggressive cancer is urging people to Race for Life at Home and carry on the fight against the disease as the nation looks beyond lockdown.

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 7:00 am

Frankie Garbett, eight, from Chorley, survived rhabdomyosarcoma - an aggressive childhood cancer - that had wrapped itself around 25 per cent of her bladder.

Now Frankie and her family are hoping people will run, walk or jog 5K for Cancer Research UK. The fundraising is even more important than ever, because the charity is predicting a £300 million drop in income caused by COVID-19 over the next three years which could put future medical breakthroughs at risk.  

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Frankie today, aged eight

>>>Read how Frankie launched Preston's first Pretty Muddy Kids event here

All 400 mass-participation Race for Life events across the UK were cancelled last year to protect the country’s health during the pandemic. And as the country emerges from lockdown the charity’s much-loved Race for Life events which were scheduled for this spring and early summer have also now been postponed.

But Frankie, her mum Sandra, dad Dave and older brother Finlay, know exactly how vital it is to keep raising funds for life-saving research.  

Frankie undergoing treatment

Mum Sandra Kane immediately booked a GP appointment when Frankie started passing blood in her urine aged just three.

A urinary infection was suspected although Frankie was not in pain or suffering high temperatures and seemed quite happy in herself.

After six weeks of visits to her GP, three different antibiotic courses and a visit to Chorley Urgent Care Centre, the blood in Frankie’s urine became more noticeable and it was increasingly painful for her to go to the toilet, to the point she tried to avoid going.

Sandra insisted on an ultrasound scan and Frankie was admitted to the Royal Preston Hospital where the scan was carried out the following day.

Within minutes of being back on the ward Sandra was called to a meeting with a doctor and patient liaison nurse and told the scan had highlighted a massive tumour covering 25 per cent of Frankie’s bladder.

Within four hours she was transferred by emergency ambulance to Manchester Children’s Hospital where, after more tests, she was diagnosed and intensive chemotherapy treatment started the following week.

Doctors had hoped chemotherapy treatment would reduce the tumour in her bladder enough for it to be removed by surgery. Following the seven hour surgery to remove the tumour her parents were told the devastating news that the cancer had spread. And Frankie faced a further seven hours of major surgery to remove her bladder and urethra.

After a week in the high dependency unit and just four weeks to recover, Frankie faced further chemotherapy treatment.

Again, Frankie had a bad reaction to the treatment, including once temporarily losing her vision and suffering night terrors.

At one point, her kidneys failed, and she was rushed by an emergency ambulance to Manchester Children’s Hospital into intensive care.

But Frankie put up a brave fight and continued a different chemotherapy treatment for several more months.

>>> Click here to read more about Frankie's journey and how the community rallied round

Since Frankie’s initial diagnosis, she has faced 15 blood transfusions and was admitted to hospital over 100 times in 12 months. The youngster finished cancer treatment in 2017.

And she reached a major milestone in 2020 having been clear of cancer for three years. Frankie has been left with long term problems with her kidneys and one of them only works at 50 per cent capacity.

Doctors are now hoping to build a new bladder for Frankie from part of her large intestine.

She is busy loving life and enjoys seeing her friends at St Laurence CE Primary School. Her brother Finlay is aged 10 and attends the same school.

Frankie was VIP guest when the first ever Race for Life Pretty Muddy event for kids was held in Preston in 2018.

Mum Sandra, who works as a lettings agent, said: “We know we are very lucky that Frankie survived. She has been left with long term health problems, but she is a happy, lively girl and achieving so much at school.

“We hope the people of Chorley and Preston will get behind Race for Life at Home and help raise funds for research to develop gentler and more effective treatments for cancer for people like Frankie.”

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, which has been in partnership with Tesco for 20 years, is an inspiring series of 3K, 5K, 10K, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer by funding crucial research.  

A live broadcast on the Cancer Research UK Race for Life Facebook and Race for Life Instagram pages on Saturday April 24 will include an energiser from a fitness expert as well as inspirational messages of support from people who have been through cancer. Participants are then invited to run, walk or jog 5K.

Organisers are also inviting participants to share photos and videos on social media using the hashtag #RaceatHome

Every year around 42,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the North West and one in two people in the UK born after 1960 will get cancer in their lifetime.*** But the good news is more people are surviving the disease now than ever before. Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress. 

Jane Bullock, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for Lancashire, said: “The truth is, COVID-19 has slowed us down.  

“But we will never stop and we are absolutely determined to continue to create better cancer treatments for tomorrow.  Even though we have to Race for Life differently this spring, nothing is going to stop us running, walking or jogging 5K to raise money to help beat cancer. That’s why we need as many people as possible across Lancashire to sign up to Race for Life at Home this April, to stand united and do something extraordinary to help beat cancer.

“We’re constantly monitoring the COVID-19 situation and are working hard to move our mass participation  Race for Life events to the autumn and to make sure they can go ahead safely and with all necessary COVID-19 guidelines in place.**** 

“We’d love to invite as many people as possible to Race for Life at Home this spring, then physically come together in the autumn to join us for Race for Life Preston”

Sign up to Race for Life at Home this April and visit raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770. Join in and share with #RaceatHome