Race for Life Launch: Chorley youngster who fought cancer to take on Preston's first Pretty Muddy Kids

Frankie Garbett
Frankie Garbett
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A five-year-old who has fought cancer and suffered gruelling side effects will be a special guest at the first ever Race for Life Pretty Muddy Kids event in Preston.

For previous stories click here /family-s-joy-as-community-rallies-round-for-frankie-4-1-8484499 and /a-new-race-for-life-muddy-kids-event-for-children-in-preston-1-8947209 and /watch-cancer-research-race-for-life-stopped-off-in-preston-as-part-of-its-25-in-25-challenge-1-9071829

Frankie Garbett, of Chorley, will be helping out on stage to set participants on their way, tackling the muddy obstacle course herself and then handing out medals to fellow youngsters at the event on Saturday June 16 at Preston’s Moor Park.

Frankie Garbett and her brother Finlay

Frankie Garbett and her brother Finlay

Five-year-old Frankie will be joined by her big brother, Finlay, seven, and he will also be taking part in the 5k course alongside her.

Their parents, Sandra Kane, 37, and Dave Garbett, 40, will also appear on stage.

The new obstacle course launched this year has been designed just for children, with scramble nets, space hoppers, mud chutes and a range of fun and muddy obstacles to crawl under, clamber over and charge through.

It has already smashed its entry target, with 350 children signed up - 50 more than expected. With capacity set at 600, there are still plenty of spaces left.

Frankie Garbett receiving treatment at hospital

Frankie Garbett receiving treatment at hospital

Since Frankie was diagnosed with cancer in her bladder she has faced 15 blood transfusions and been admitted to hospital over 100 times in 12 months.

Further challenges this time last year saw the youngster face a seven-hour operation to remove a tumour and another seven hours of surgery to remove her bladder and urethra after doctors found the cancer had spread.

Frankie, a pupil at St Laurence CE Primary School in Chorley, was only three when she was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma at an advanced stage in her bladder.

Mum Sandra had immediately taken Frankie to their GP when she started passing blood in her urine.

Frankie Garbett receiving treatment at hospital

Frankie Garbett receiving treatment at hospital

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 told the scan had highlighted a massive tumour covering 25 per cent of Frankie’s bladder.

Frankie Garbett and her brother Finlay

Frankie Garbett and her brother Finlay

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.

The treatment made Frankie so poorly she needed multiple transfusions and had to be regularly hospitalised.

In January last year after facing surgery to remove the tumour, her parents were told the devastating news the cancer had spread and three weeks later she faced more major surgery to remove her bladder.

Sandra said: “We were told by the oncologist her cancer was so aggressive it would grow very quick in a matter of weeks, hence the drastic action of removing her bladder.

“The oncologist and surgeon involved were amazing. They saved Frankie’s life and the care we have had at the hospital has been first class.”

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.

In March last year her kidneys failed, and she was rushed by an emergency ambulance to Manchester Children’s Hospital into intensive care.

Sandra said: “It was all so awful to see her go through that.”

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

The youngster finished cancer treatment in May last year but she needs ongoing treatment for damage to her kidneys.

Frankie started school in September last year, the same month she had her first cancer-free scan and she is doing very well.

But she still suffers from fatigue and her weight is currently that expected of a two-year-old.

Sandra added: “As each month passes, she is gaining more weight and is getting stronger every day. She has even started doing ballet and swimming which is wonderful.”

Frankie has not been able to have childhood vaccinations and ongoing problems with her immune system and kidneys leave her susceptible to everyday ailments.

She has been in hospital three times because of sickness bugs commonly suffered by schoolchildren.

But in May she will be one year clear of chemotherapy and a recent scan showed she is free of tumours and the nasogastric tube in her nose has been removed which had in for 14 months.

Sandra added: “She often feels tired when she goes to school but she picks herself up.

“When the chemotherapy treatment finished we thought we would get back to normal life.

“But, despite everything, we are in a much better place than this time last year. We know how lucky we are. I am so proud of Frankie. She is such a fighter.

“Her big brother, Finlay, has coped amazingly too. He has faced his mum disappearing in the night, staying in other people’s houses and having friends and family pick him up and drop him off at school.”

Sandra regrets Frankie’s cancer was not diagnosed earlier, which may have saved her bladder, and she is passionate about more research being funded into finding kinder treatments for childhood cancers.

Jane Bullock, Cancer Research UK’s spokesman for Preston, said: “We hope children like Frankie and Finlay will rally their friends, family and schoolmates to sign up and take on the challenge.

“Children can complete the Pretty Muddy Kids course at their own pace, climbing, jumping, walking and laughing their way around.”

The entry fee for Pretty Muddy Kids is £10. The event is open to boys and girls aged up to 12 years old and there is a minimum height requirement of 1.2m. All children must be accompanied by a supervising adult, who have free entry to the event.

To enter Race for Life Pretty Muddy Kids today go to http://www.raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.

Pretty Muddy Kids will be held on the morning of Saturday June 16 followed by Pretty Muddy for women (girls aged 13 and over).

Race for Life 5k and 10k events will be held at 11am at Moor Park on Sunday June 17.