Family pay tribute to brave Ipswich teenager who died of leukaemia aged 17
- Credit: Gregg Brown
The mother of a brave Ipswich teenager who died of a rare form of leukaemia at the age of 17 says she ‘always had a smile on her face’.
Emma King was just 13-years-old when she was diagnosed with Philadelphia positive acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2013, a cancer which causes white blood cells to overproduce in the bone marrow.
Yet despite her illness, which saw her complete years of intensive treatment, including chemotherapy, her mother Kathy says she was always looking out for others.
“She was really brave and didn’t let her illness get her down, even when she was in hospital,” she said. “Sometimes she was stuck in a room for two to three weeks at a time.
“She went through so much but always had a smile on her face.
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“She never moaned about having cancer - she always said there was someone worse off than her.
“In hospital she was always concerned about other people on the ward.
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“I told her you need to be worried about yourself but she was always worrying about other people.”
Emma, of Kensington Road in Ipswich, was a pupil at Westbourne Academy when she was first diagnosed.
“She had a big lump on her neck and was really lethargic,” said Kathy. “The doctors said it was a virus and that she would get over it herself.”
A week later Emma collapsed while walking to school.
After a visit to Addenbrooke’s Hospital and series of blood tests, Emma and her family were told the devastating news.
“In hospital a consultant said she had Philadelphia acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, he said she was only the third person at Addenbrooke’s to have it,” said Kathy.
“From then she was in treatment for two and a half years.
“Then they thought it had gone and she had a year with no treatment and started back at college
“She was really enjoying it. She made new friends, she was always out and about. She was so happy.”
In February last year the family went on holiday to Disney World in Florida thanks to the Rays of Sunshine charity, which helps to brighten the lives of seriously ill children.
On her return - and in remission - Emma started a course at Suffolk New College with a dream of becoming a nurse.
But just weeks later the family was dealt a further blow, with the news that the disease had returned and that Emma needed a lifesaving bone marrow transplant.
“We came back in March for a routine exam and more blood tests and the doctor said he didn’t think it would come back,” said Kathy. “But a couple of weeks later they called saying we need to see you tomorrow.
“They said Emma needed to come back to hospital as she had a relapse and needed a bone marrow transplant.”
Emma passed away on December 12 at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
At her funeral, attended by more than 100 people on Wednesday last week, her coffin was led out by the family’s dogs Daisy, Charlie and Lola, who she loved dearly.
“They are usually very naughty dogs but were good as gold that day,” said Kathy. “They gave a little bark at the end, it was if they were saying goodbye.”
Kathy said as well as being a popular girl with lots of friends, she was also very close to her brother Adam, 22, her step sisters Jamie, 21, Cassie, 23, Callie, 18 and Danielle, her half sister Tasha, 36 and step-dad Shaun.
“Emma was so bubbly and so caring,” she said. “She loved to be out with her friends but her illness stopped her being able to go out much, which must have been very hard on her.
“She was also cheeky, very cheeky - a very strong person.”
Emma’s dream to swim with dolphins
In February last year Emma and her family were whisked away for a dream holiday at Disney World in Florida thanks to the generosity of a charity that works to brighten the lives of seriously ill children.
Emma, a big animal lover, got the chance to swim with dolphins.
Her mum, Kathy, said Emma had never been happier.
“She loved it, she wanted us to take her back,” she said.
“She was so happy that week, it was as if she had never been ill.
“She went on every ride in the park, she went snorkelling, she swam with the dolphins - she loved every minute of it.
“She was a major thrill-seeker - there was no ride she wouldn’t go on.
“If anything was fast or high, she loved it.”
After returning from America, Emma had wanted to do a sponsored sky dive to raise money for the C9 cancer ward at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, before discovering her cancer had returned and she became too ill.