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‘It’s so unfair’: three generations of loving family struck by serious illnesses

Dexter Harding, four, is enduring painful chemotherapy, while his mother waits on the organ transplant list and his grandmother fights breast cancer.

Jenna Harding (right) holds her four year old son Dexter at home in St Leonards, East Sussex, following his leukemia diagnosis before Christmas, as she struggles with kidney failure and her mother, Nikki Harding (left) also battles a recent cancer diagnosis (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Jenna Harding (right) holds her four year old son Dexter at home in St Leonards, East Sussex, following his leukemia diagnosis before Christmas, as she struggles with kidney failure and her mother, Nikki Harding (left) also battles a recent cancer diagnosis (Gareth Fuller/PA)

By Michael Drummond, PA South East Correspondent

A “soul destroying” twist of fate has left three generations of a loving family dealing with life-threatening illnesses, including a four-year-old boy battling leukaemia.

Little Dexter “Diggs” Harding has gone from a happy, excited child to enduring painful chemotherapy, while his mother waits on the organ transplant list and his grandmother fights breast cancer.

Amid the heartbreaking times for the family, Dexter’s mother Jenna Harding is warning other parents to trust their instincts, after his leukaemia was nearly missed by doctors.

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Jenna Harding holds her four year old son, Dexter (Gareth Fuller/PA)

She told the PA news agency: “It’s just so unfair that of the three most important people in my life, my mum and my two children, two of them have been shot with cancer.”

When mother-of-two Jenna Harding’s kidneys suddenly failed in April 2019, her family banded together to support her and her mother began the process of donating one of her kidneys to her.

But routine screening revealed that Nikki Harding, 56, had breast cancer, leaving her devastated and unable to donate a kidney to her daughter.

Soon after this bombshell, Jenna Harding’s sister Abbi Dixon, 26, was taken to hospital and had to have surgery to remove her gall bladder.

And finally on Friday December 13, Jenna’s youngest son Dexter Harding was diagnosed with leukaemia and had to start chemotherapy right away.

Speaking at her home in St Leonards, East Sussex, former chef Jenna Harding, 29, spoke emotionally about how Dexter’s cancer almost went unnoticed due to a lack of symptoms.

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Nikki Harding kisses her four year old grandson Dexter (Gareth Fuller/PA)

She said: “He was really pale for a few weeks that was all the symptoms we had.

“There was a doctor at the A&E who told me to go home and get some over the counter iron drops.”

But she decided to take Dexter to her GP and within three hours he was admitted to hospital, where he was diagnosed with leukaemia.

“Thankfully it’s easy to be treated. We are very hopeful that we caught it early.”

However that does not change the harsh effects of chemotherapy, with Dexter in a lot of pain and struggling to sleep.

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Jenna Harding with Dexter (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Jenna Harding said: “It’s breaking my heart that we are putting him through so much pain but it’s for the best.

“Out of the two of my children Dex was the loudest, toughest, cheekiest, and to watch him go from that to this is just soul destroying.

“I am really proud of him to be honest, he’s doing really, really well.”

The hope is that Dexter will be well enough to go back to school in February.

Dexter’s brother Noah, 10, has been a rock for him, she says, and is volunteering to shave his head for companionship and to help raise funds for The Royal Marsden hospital.

The local community in St Leonards, which is located on the coast near Hastings, has also been a big help for the family.

Dexter received so many Christmas presents from wellwishers that he still has some left to open.

A JustGiving page has raised over £1,000 for Dexter’s family and can be found here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/kirsty-harding-3?utm_term=XnzzVZymB

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