A YOUNG Bradford City fan diagnosed with a rare type of liver cancer has spoken of his gratitude following an amazing outpouring of support from friends and the football community.

James Penn, 15, from Shipley, was diagnosed with Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma just before Christmas last year and underwent a gruelling 10-hour operation to remove the tumour.

James after his operation

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Now, he’s shared his story in the hope of raising awareness about the importance of research into rare types of cancer and has begun a campaign to raise vital funds.

He said: “I had a lump on my abdomen for 18 months maybe, in October, I decided I’d had enough because I was feeling tired, not putting on as much weight as I wanted, I was looking a bit pale.

“I just had a general feeling I was unwell and I was starting to get nervous, I was suffering acid reflux really badly.”

James went to his GP surgery and was referred for an abdominal wall ultrasound, which found he had a lump on his liver.

He was then referred to the Leeds General Infirmary, where he underwent a number of scans, but a biopsy revealed he had cancer. James and his family received the news just days before Christmas, on December 20.

“I think I was just more shocked than anything,” James said.

“Then I just sort of festered in my mind, all these things. What’s the survival rate? What are my chances? What’s going to happen, am I going to be alright?”

His mum Caroline, 43, added: “We were just totally shocked really. They said it was really unusual, so we were thinking ‘how are they going to treat it? what are they going to do?’”

James and his mum Caroline and their pooch

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

The type of cancer James was diagnosed with usually occurs in adolescents and young adults who have no history of liver disease and only around 200 people per year, around the world, are diagnosed with it. Generally, there are no symptoms early on, so it’s often not spotted until the tumour has grown or spread to other parts of the body.

James’ 10-hour operation to remove the tumour followed on New Year’s Eve and while there is no evidence of disease following surgery, he is now undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy as a precaution in a Cancer Research clinical trial, which will finish at the end of May.

Despite his ordeal, James, a Year 11 pupil at Titus Salt School, has stayed positive and has received a brilliant response to his fundraising mission.

He said: “I’ve really just tried to keep happy through it all and not get down about it. I just wanted to help other people with a rare cancer that aren’t in as good a situation as me right now.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

James began his fundraiser on World Cancer Day and used social media to spread the word.

A keen footballer himself, he was inundated with messages of support from the football community including from Bradford City players Richard O’Donnell, Shay McCartan, Jamie Devitt and Callum Cooke, plus Southampton footballer Charlie Austin and scores of others touched by his plight.

“It felt amazing to know there’s that support out there for me” said James.

Caroline added: “We’ve found people have been absolutely amazing and so supportive.

“Don’t be afraid of talking to people about what’s happened, because I think one of the worst things you can do is hide away and pretend that everything’s fine. We found last week, when we put it out on social media, that people have been so amazing, it’s just been absolutely heartwarming.

“People have shared their stories as well and said ‘I’m a cancer survivor - keep going’.

“That’s been really nice as well - you hear the word cancer and you think ‘that’s terrifying’ and you hear chemotherapy and think ‘that’s going to be awful’. It isn’t pleasant and we’d rather not be in this situation, but James has been amazing, he’s just an inspiration, he’s been so positive about it.”

When he finishes chemotherapy, James would like to do even more fundraising and has hopes of tackling the Three Peaks.

“Thank you to everyone, all my friends and all the people online and everyone that’s donated,” he said.

James has now raised nearly £2,000 and if you would like to donate to the fundraising campaign, click here

The family has asked for any donations to go to research into rare cancers.