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Cancer treatment inspires new dad to raise £18k for NNUH with mass head shave

PUBLISHED: 06:30 16 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:28 16 May 2020

James Barham was diagnosed with aggresive leukaemia five weeks after the birth of his son. He has raised more than £18k for the NNUH while undergoing chem at the hospital. Picture: James Barham

James Barham was diagnosed with aggresive leukaemia five weeks after the birth of his son. He has raised more than £18k for the NNUH while undergoing chem at the hospital. Picture: James Barham

James Barham

The last six weeks have been both the happiest and hardest of James Barham’s life.

Visitor restrictions means he can only see Katie and Charlie through the hospital window or online. Photo: James BarhamVisitor restrictions means he can only see Katie and Charlie through the hospital window or online. Photo: James Barham

On April 2 his first child, Charlie, was born at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

Four weeks later, on Monday May 4, the builder from Drayton got out of bed and blacked out.

The 31-year old went to A&E that day for blood tests and the next day went back to the NNUH for a bone marrow biopsy.

Just 10 minutes after leaving the hospital, he had a call. Mr Barham had an aggressive blood cancer called acute myeloid leukaemia.

James Barham pictured before he shaved his hair off and raised £18k for the NNUH. Photo: James BarhamJames Barham pictured before he shaved his hair off and raised £18k for the NNUH. Photo: James Barham

“We were devastated,” Mr Barham said. “I was in absolute bits and just couldn’t believe it.”

Just four days before Charlie was born, Mr Barham said he started feeling nauseous but put it down to nerves ahead of the his son’s birth.

“It was a long birth and a bit traumatic,” he said.

He then started feeling tired but thought it was the stress of having a new baby.

After the head shave. Photo: James BarhamAfter the head shave. Photo: James Barham

Last Wednesday, the day after he was diagnosed with leukaemia, he was back at the NNUH to start weeks of chemotherapy.

No visitors are allowed because of coronavirus, but staff on Mulbarton ward have moved him to a window bed so he can see his wife Katie and Charlie through the window.

But the new dad has not let the devastating news, or visiting restrictions, get him down.

He launched a charity head shave appeal on Facebook last week to raise funds for the hospital’s cancer department and encouraged friends and family to join in.

James Barham is undergoing chemotherapy at the NNUH just weeks after the birth of his son Charlie, pictured with wife Katie. Photo: James BarhamJames Barham is undergoing chemotherapy at the NNUH just weeks after the birth of his son Charlie, pictured with wife Katie. Photo: James Barham

“I thought it would be an opportunity to give back,” Mr Barham said.

“I’m going to be losing my hair anyway and everyone else is in lockdown and not had a haircut for weeks so I thought their friends and family could sponsor them for a head shave too.”

Mr Barham lost his locks on Wednesday and has been joined by around 50 other head shavers.

In just over a week he has smashed his target of £6,000.

Visitor restrictions means he can only see Katie and Charlie through the hospital window or online. Photo: James BarhamVisitor restrictions means he can only see Katie and Charlie through the hospital window or online. Photo: James Barham

More than £18,000 has now been donated to the NNUH’s charity from 800 people across the world through the Just Giving website.

They have had donations from the US, Italy as well as his wife’s native Australia.

“I would’ve been over the moon if we had raised £2,000,” he said. “I have got messages from people in the US and India just giving their support.”

All donations will go to the NNUH’s cancer department, with staff deciding how best they can use it, he said.

The ex-Taverham High School pupil said doctors had told him the cancer was unlikely to be killed by chemotherapy, meaning he will need a stem cell transplant at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

James Barham is undergoing chemotherapy at the NNUH after being diagnosed with an aggresive form of leukemia. In just over a week he has raised £18k for the hospital's charity through a head shave. Photo: James BarhamJames Barham is undergoing chemotherapy at the NNUH after being diagnosed with an aggresive form of leukemia. In just over a week he has raised £18k for the hospital's charity through a head shave. Photo: James Barham

“I’m fit and healthy but this cancer comes up so rapidly and can kill someone. That is what has been the most surprising thing for me,” he said.

On his Just Giving fundraising page, he wrote: “I have a long journey ahead of me with leukaemia as my new temporary normal.

“The constant care and attention I’m receiving while I’m in hospital is truly exceptional, all from men and women who are overworked and seriously underpaid.

“I’m now in their hands, so it’s the least I can do to try and help them back in a small way. Your support will be greatly appreciated. Let’s all go forward and be kind to one another.”

James Barham after his headshave for the NNUH cancer department. Photo: James BarhamJames Barham after his headshave for the NNUH cancer department. Photo: James Barham

Louise Cook, head of fundraising at the NNUH, said: “We are incredibly grateful for the support and fundraising James, his family and friends are undertaking at this difficult time.

“We are overwhelmed at the support shown to the hospital charity, where the money raised will go to support our work with cancer patients. We wish to say thank you to everyone who has got behind James’ fundraising.”

•You can donate to James’s headshave at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/james-barham3

• A leukaemia which comes with little warning

The NHS says symptoms of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) can come on suddenly.

They include feeling tired and weak, weight loss and breathlessness.

This blood cancer is caused by a DNA mutation in the stem cells in the bone marrow.

The NHS website says the mutation causes the stem cells to produce many more white blood cells than are needed.

The white blood cells produced are still immature, so they do not have the infection-fighting properties of fully developed white blood cells.

As the number of immature cells increases, the amount of healthy red blood cells decreases and causes the symptoms of leukaemia.

The NHS says it is not know what triggers the genetic mutation.

Patients are treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy but if that does not work a bone marrow or stem cell transplant may be needed.


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