Little Portsmouth girl diagnosed with "very aggressive" bone cancer after fall leaving family heartbroken

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A family have been left devastated after their little girl was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer.

Freya Byles, four, has osteosarcoma and faces multiple rounds of chemotherapy to cure her.

A fundraiser has been set up to support the Milton, Portsmouth, family financially, as mum Shannon Woodman is on leave from her job at Portsmouth Academy to be with her daughter.

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Freya is currently being cared for at Southampton General Hospital, with Shannon by her side. The devastated mother said: “Everyone always asks me how I feel and I don’t know what to say. I am just heartbroken, I just want my baby who I’ve carried in my tummy and nurtured to be happy and healthy.

Freya Byles, 4, of Milton, has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma and is currently completing rounds of chemotherapy. The diagnosis has left the family devastated. Picture: Shannon WoodmanFreya Byles, 4, of Milton, has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma and is currently completing rounds of chemotherapy. The diagnosis has left the family devastated. Picture: Shannon Woodman
Freya Byles, 4, of Milton, has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma and is currently completing rounds of chemotherapy. The diagnosis has left the family devastated. Picture: Shannon Woodman

"She has had so much to deal with all at once and will continue to be a struggle with all the side effects. I cannot bear to be without my girl, she is my whole world, this chemotherapy needs to work.”

Donna Woodman, Shannon’s aunt, told The News: “It’s just so heart-breaking seeing how Freya is at the moment. It’s awful. So much has happened all at once. It’s just really hard. She only just started school in September and missed her first day as she was having scans.”

Donna said she noticed Freya wasn’t right after the Meon Infant School pupil grazed her knee at her aunt’s parents house. “It wasn’t anything severe, just a little bruise, but as time went on she started limping and kept waking up screaming and crying in the night that her leg really hurt,” the 37-year-old added.

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Freya is going through several rounds of chemotherapy in the hope of curing her cancer. Picture: Shannon Woodman.Freya is going through several rounds of chemotherapy in the hope of curing her cancer. Picture: Shannon Woodman.
Freya is going through several rounds of chemotherapy in the hope of curing her cancer. Picture: Shannon Woodman.

Freya was initially taken to St Mary’s Hospital, Donna said, but was turned away on three occasions as staff thought the child was in shock following the fall. Medical personnel at Queen Alexandra Hospital conducted an x-ray and noticed a shadow across her right knee.

Subsequent CT scans and an emergency MRI scan revealed she had a malignant tumour, and was diagnosed with osteosarcoma – an aggressive form of bone cancer which is rare in young children. Donna said Freya’s tumour in her right leg is very large and has spread to the lymph nodes behind her knee.

Donna said although her niece is managing as best she can, after being in Southampton General Hospital since Monday (October 2), she is in a lot of pain.

"She hasn’t been able to walk and has been in a wheelchair”, Donna added. "She is a little superstar. She’s had to have a central line put in and had to go through a gruelling operation where they put a tube behind her kidneys, through her heart and bring the lines out through the top, where they give her medicine.

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"She was getting stressed and kept having cannulas put into her hands. It’s made her really poorly. She’s so young that she doesn’t really understand what is happening to her.

"She just thinks she’s got a really poorly leg, and she’s just taking medicine to make her better. It has been mentioned by Southampton General that Freya may need to have her leg amputated.”

Donna said Freya starting having rounds of chemotherapy on Wednesday (October 4), with further treatment scheduled for tonight and tomorrow. Surgery has been booked for the little girl alongside 29 weeks of chemotherapy.

Donna said Freya’s diagnosis has had a horrible impact on the family. “They’re all heartbroken. Shannon is being so amazingly strong for Freya. Southampton General has praised her for how she’s been, but you can see she’s so scared and broken inside.

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"Freya is such a happy and really funny little girl. Everyone who meets her always comments on how lovely she is. She’s gone very quiet and it’s very hard to see her like that. Sometimes she doesn’t want to talk at all.

"She’s just been in so much pain and it has been awful for her. She’s on a lot of morphine to try and help with it.”

Thousands of pounds have already been raised for the family. Donna, who set up the fundraiser, said: “We’re just so grateful and overwhelmed. It’s not just family and friends, but complete strangers. It’s the people of Portsmouth and strangers from further afield who have all got together and donated.

"We can’t believe how amazing that is. I know Shannon and her mum Lisa are so grateful. I felt useless that there was nothing I could do to help Freya and Shannon, and I just wanted to do something to help.

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"If I could take a bit of worry away from them, it’s one less thing off their minds. Being a long-term illness, it is going to affect them.

“As a family, we’ll all just have to try and help them as best we can. We just don’t want them to go through any more upset than they already are.

“It’s going to be a long road ahead. I know Shannon is so grateful for the love and support she is getting.” Donna said the family can’t thank hospital staff enough for caring for Freya.

She added: “They make Freya feel so at ease. Hopefully, this is the start of her getting better.”

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The Milton native said she’s been told by hospital staff that Freya will lose her hair, with the disease also impacting her hearing and heart. She may also become infertile. Donna said Shannon is hoping her only child will return to the family home, shared with her mum Lisa, healthy and happy.

“The cancer is very aggressive and fast-spreading, but they’ll do everything they can to give her the best treatment in the hope they can cure her. Everything seems so uncertain and staff can’t really tell us anymore than they already have.

"Freya will have a lot to deal with for someone so young, even losing her long beautiful hair. She always twirls it as a way of comfort, so it’s really sad that she’ll lose it.

"We just want her to get better. That’s all we want.” Shannon added: “I am so grateful to all of the hospital staff at Queen Alexandra, Southampton general and Stanmore hospitals for being amazing with Freya and offering so much emotional support to myself and my family, and being so thorough with information even if a question has already been asked.

"It’s all a bit overwhelming. I also want to say a big thank you to my friends and family who have been supporting me and Freya through this difficult time.”