Family beats cancer gene

FOUR members of the same Weston family found to have a rogue gene have had to endure life-saving operations.

FOUR members of the same Weston family found to have a rogue gene have had to endure life-saving operations.The rare genetic condition, which was discovered by chance, meant the gene carriers had to have their perfectly healthy thyroid glands removed.Julie Flaskett and her sister Joanne Palmer were the first to be found to carry the gene which leads to a condition known as multiple endocrine neoplasia. Doctors said the sisters were so prone to getting thyroid cancer, their thyroid glands would have to be removed.Julie and Joanne's children faced a 50:50 chance of having the rogue gene.Julie's daughter Aimee, a pupil at Herons' Moor Community Primary School, had the test and was found to have the gene. Her thyroid gland was removed when she was aged only four. She may have to take tablets for the rest of her life.Thankfully Julie's 18-month-old son, Joell, does not have the gene.Joanne's son Joshua, a five-year-old pupil at Mendip Green First School in Worle, has also had to have his thyroid removed. Her other son Ben, aged nine, did not have the gene.Julie, of Camberley Way, Locking Castle, and Joanne, of Sweetgrass Road, had the tests after their cousin in Cornwall was found to have thyroid cancer and a genetic link was spotted. Until then, they were totally oblivious to the life-threatening condition. Julie, a nurse at Broadway Lodge drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, said: "The doctors were learning about the disease on my family."They said they had only found one other person with the gene and they were in Italy. They were contacting doctors in America it is so rare. It was a lottery whether or not we would have it."But life has been made a little easier for the family thanks to improvements at Weston General Hospital.Aimee and Joshua need to have regular check-ups and now, instead of facing a journey to and from the children's hospital in Bristol, the tests can be carried out by the specialist paediatric doctors in Weston.Julie, aged 38, said: "We were having to get up to Bristol for 8.30am and sometimes Aimee couldn't eat, which was hard."The Weston Super Kids Appeal is raising money for improved children's facilities at the hospital. When it reaches the £500,000 target, it will mean that other children like Aimee and Joshua can be treated in Weston.