WHEN bathing her young son, Nicole Barkbsy spotted one of his testicles was bigger than the other.
But, given Jake was just six years old, the last thing to cross her mind was cancer.
Yet, just days later doctors confirmed the diagnosis - Jake had cancer.
Shocked, Nicole and her husband Adam, are now urging all parents to be vigilant and check their kids for the signs of the disease.
The mum, from Nottinghamshire, first suspected something was wrong when she spotted one of Jake's testicles appeared larger than normal.
She immediately took him to see the GP on May 28, and was advised to take Jake to hospital as soon as possible.
There, medics carried out a series of tests that confirmed Jake had a rare soft tissue tumour on his testicle.
Just a week later the six-year-old had surgery to have his testicle, and a 5cm tumour removed.
Biopsy results later that month confirmed the youngster had paratesticular rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare soft tissue tumour.
The disease, which usually occurs in the spermatic cord, testis and groin, affects fewer than 60 children in the UK each year, according to figures.
Mum Nicola said: "It all happened so quickly.
"Within the space of the first month a lot has happened. It was such a huge shock as I almost thought he had not got a right testicle as the other one was quite big.
"With Jake there was no pain or illness it was just the size. You do not expect it at all. It's hard to expect it in adults let alone a six-year-old boy."
Jake had a series of tests following his diagnosis including a CT scan which revealed another lump in his stomach.
With medics fearing the cancer may have spread, he was forced to undergo another operation and biopsy to confirm whether the lump was cancer - which fortunately results showed it wasn't.
Despite this, he had to have pipes inserted into a vein in his chest, known as central lines, to make sure the rare form of cancer does not spread.
And he will now undergo 22 weeks of chemotherapy at the Queen's Medical Centre.
What are the symptoms of cancer in children?
Cancer symptoms can be very similar to those of other childhood illnesses - and they vary between children.
According to Cancer Research UK, there are 15 signs to look out for:
- Unable to wee, or has blood in their wee
- An unexplained lump, firmness or swelling anywhere in their body
- Persistent abdominal pain or swelling
- Back pain or bony pain that doesn't go away
- Unexplained seizures or changes in behaviour
- Headaches that don't go away
- Frequent or unexplained bruising, unusual paleness or a rash of small red or purple spots that can't be explained
- Unexplained bleeding
- Feeling tired all the time
- Frequent infections or flu-like symptoms
- Unexplained vomiting
- Unexplained fever (high temperatures) or sweating
- Unexplained weight loss
- Feeling short of breath
- Changes in appearance of the eye or unusual eye reflections in photos
Nicola, a clerical officer who lives in Hucknall, added: "On the cancer ward it's very scary. When you walk into the ward it is full of children all battling cancer.
"It's really sad to see. Cancer changes your life. We're just taking things a day at a time.
"We were meant to be going to Florida on holiday but now we will have to leave it until next year.
"And because of his central lines he is not allowed to go swimming or trampolining.
"He has chemotherapy every week for four weeks and then he gets a week break. He's just getting on with it.
Cancer changes your life. We're just taking things a day at a timeNicola Barksby
"He has been very accepting and lets the doctors do what they have to do.
"It's very uncommon in children his age but luckily we found it early enough.
"For myself it's about raising awareness in younger children, and it's also so important for younger lads who take themselves off for a shower to check themselves.
"The hospital has been really, really good. They have kept us in the loop. The nurses have been really great."
MORE ON CANCER
Jake's ten-year-old sister, Hollie, is focusing on raising money for the hospital's children's cancer ward and has raised £1,500 so far.
The youngster, who has signed up for a 5km run next month, told Nottinghamshire Live: "I'm doing it in honour of my brother because he's going through so much at the minute.
"I hope the money raising will make the ward a better place and that their time in the ward will be more enjoyable."
Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK spokesman for Nottinghamshire said: “Our hearts go out to this little boy and his parents.
"It is always very difficult when a child develops cancer, but in a situation like this where the cancer is so rare it can feel even more isolating and hard to bear."
Paratesticular rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare soft tissue tumour which usually occurs in the spermatic cord, testis and groin - but can occur in other areas such as the neck and can spread to the lymph nodes.
An average of two children aged between five and nine were diagnosed each year with the disease between 2014 and 2016.
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