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Parents in bone marrow plea as Mia battles cancer again

Like thousands of parents across the country Leicestershire PC Chris Phipps and his partner Mandy were expecting to spend the summer holidays hunting for school uniform and preparing their daughter for her first day at school.

PC Chris Phipps and Mia

Little Mia, who turns five at the end of September, had enjoyed her induction days at Heatherbrook Primary School and was looking forward to going to 'big school'. But before that, the young family were planning their first holiday in Tenerife.

Sadly, however, Mia will not be starting school with her young friends and the family have had to cancel the holiday since the cancer Mia first battled when she was just a toddler has returned.

"Mia was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was 21-months-old and, after two and a half years of treatment, including chemotherapy, was given the all-clear in December last year," says Chris (29), who joined the Force as a PC in 2012 after three years as a PCSO.

"We enjoyed seven months of Mia being well when she picked up chickenpox and then, after she complained of headaches, we were referred to the Leicester Royal Infirmary where she was originally treated. Blood tests came back OK as did a CT scan but Mia's consultant asked for a lumbar puncture to be carried out and that revealed cancer in her spinal fluid."

The family are now waiting for doctors to confirm the best approach to treatment with a bone marrow transplant being one possibility but gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy are almost certainly going to be part of the plan of attack. When Mia was first told she was ill once more, her main concern was that she was going to lose her hair again.

Chris and his partner Mandy are now urgently appealing for people to sign up to the Anthony Nolan Trust and consider being bone marrow donors in the hope that even if they are not a match for Mia they can help others facing similar illnesses.

"We know that the search is already on to find a suitable donor for Mia but we would really like to encourage more people to come forward and sign up to the donor register. We want to raise awareness of the need for bone marrow donors and also stress how easy it is to help someone like Mia," says Chris, "When I joined, I registered with the trust and they posted me a pack. All I had to do was spit in the container they sent and return it to them."

The Anthony Nolan Trust (anthonynolan.org) looks for donors aged 18 to 30 and if you're already a blood donor, or willing and eligible to give blood, you may be able to join the British Bone Marrow Registry, run by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), by giving an extra sample at your next appointment. NHSBT accepts men aged 17 to 40, as well as women aged 17 to 40 from mixed or minority ethnic backgrounds. DKMS UK registers people aged 17 to 55. You can sign up online or at a recruitment event.

All of Mia's immediate family have already given samples but so far a match has not been found. When a suitable donor is found, the family are going to have to travel to Sheffield where the transplant will be carried out.

Chris and Mandy have also launched a charity in their daughter's name - Mia Moo's Foundation - and want to raise at least 40,000 to pay for a static caravan on the East Coast that could be used by families in similar circumstances to their own.

"This could be a real lifeline for a family and give them invaluable respite between hospital visits and treatments," says Chris. Leicestershire Police Federation chairman Tiff Lynch has pledged to help the family and is urging other Federation members to sign up to the donor register.

"I was really moved by Mia's story," says Tiff, "As a mother myself, I can imagine what Chris and Mandy are going through. The family were looking forward to their first holiday abroad this year and planning for the future doing all the things that Mia had not been able to do while battling this disease first time around so it seems particularly tough that instead they are embarking on a second bout of treatments."

If you want to help with the Mia Moo's Foundation fund-raising or make a donation, please contact the Federation office by emailing tlynch@lpf.polfed.org