‘We thought it was just a tummy bug ...but it was cancer’

BRAVE BOY Tanya Gibbard from Titchfield Common with her son Cobee, four, who has been treated for cancer.  Picture: Steve Reid (121867-877)
BRAVE BOY Tanya Gibbard from Titchfield Common with her son Cobee, four, who has been treated for cancer. Picture: Steve Reid (121867-877)
Janine Andrade,  Siobhan Edwards-Bannon and Zoe Boxhall with the pupils learning about the human skeleton .
Picture : Habibur Rahman (171637-3)

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WHEN three-year-old Cobee Illman couldn’t keep his food down, his parents thought he had a stomach bug.

But weeks after initially being told it was a tummy infection, his family discovered the tot had a rare form of cancer.

Mum Tanya Gibbard, of Bedford Drive, Titchfield Common, remembers how terrified she felt when her son was given the diagnosis in March last year, when he was just three.

The 25-year-old said: ‘Cobee became unwell.

‘He would try to eat something and everytime he was trying to swallow it he was bringing it back up again.

‘We had been to a farm the day before and thought he might’ve picked something up from there and we took him to the hospital.

‘He hadn’t had a meal and wasn’t drinking anything either.’

Worried, Tanya and her partner Chris, 31, took Cobee to the children’s unit in Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham.

He was given medicine to treat what was thought to be a stomach bug.

But the problems kept on coming back and two weeks later Coree was taken back to QA. This time tests revealed a tumour measuring 2cm was pressing against his oesophagus causing it to kink and the reason he couldn’t swallow food.

Doctors diagnosed anaplastic large cell lymphoma – a rare cancer which mainly affects children and young adults. Further tests found more tumours on his kidneys.

‘We didn’t know how to react when we were first told,’ said Tanya, a childcare worker. ‘I was quite angry that it had taken them that long to find them.

‘Only two weeks before they had checked him and hadn’t found anything – I was so upset. You kind of think kids don’t get cancer. I remember going home the first night after being told and we cried all night – we hardly slept.

‘We were so scared we were going to lose our precious little boy.’

Coree was transferred to Southampton General Hospital for a procedure to remove the tumours.

The youngster had become weak because he had not eaten and specialists used steroids to shrink the cancer.

Within three days X-rays revealed the tumour had shrunk so much there was no need to operate.

Cobee went through six months of chemotherapy, before he was given the all clear – much to the relief of his parents. Despite everything, Tanya considers they are very lucky.

She said: ‘I still get scared if Coree coughs up food or something, in case it’s back.

‘But we’re glad the cancer was found and he was treated.’

To raise awareness of different cancers and raise money, Tanya will be taking part in this year’s Race For Life.

The event takes place on Sunday, July 22, and the 5k course starts on Southsea Common. Money raised is donated to Cancer Research UK.

For more information call 0871 641 1111, or visit raceforlife.org.