A COURAGEOUS four-year-old, who travelled to America for cancer treatment, was chosen to lead the charge against the disease at Edinburgh’s Race for Life.

Flora Gentleman was just two when she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma – a rare cancer that affects children, mostly under the age of five.

Today, she is in remission after successful NHS treatment and is taking part in a clinical trial, which aims to prevent the cancer from returning, in New York.

Earlier this year, Flora, from Aberlady, received a Cancer Research UK for Children and Young People star award in recognition of the bravery she has shown during treatment.

On Sunday, the youngster was the guest of honour at the charity’s Race for Life Edinburgh in Holyrood Park.

She sounded the start horn to get the event, which attracted more than 1,200 people, under way.

East Lothian Courier: Flora Gentleman, along with mum Stephanie Kent and dad Jamie Gentleman, started the Race for Life in EdinburghFlora Gentleman, along with mum Stephanie Kent and dad Jamie Gentleman, started the Race for Life in Edinburgh

More than £135,273 was raised for Cancer Research UK, vital funds which will enable scientists to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer – helping to save more lives.

It was a special day for Flora who stood at the start line to cheer on participants along with her parents, Stephanie Kent and Jamie Gentleman.

Stephanie said: “Flora has adapted and coped with everything cancer has thrown at her.

“She is our shining star and hero.

“But nothing can prepare you for hearing that your child has cancer.

“It felt like our whole world had fallen apart and it’s been a long road.

“We’re in a good position now as there is no evidence of cancer in her body but the fear that will always be with us is that the cancer could come back.

“That’s not going to disappear but Flora is doing well.

“To look at Flora now, you wouldn’t think she’s been through so much.

“We’re proud to launch Race for Life Edinburgh for Flora and on behalf of every single person in Scotland with cancer.”

READ MORE: Video: Flora 'rings the bell' to signal end of her cancer treatment

The youngster was diagnosed with cancer just three months after her parents were told she was autistic.

Stephanie recalled how Flora deteriorated quickly after first developing symptoms including extreme tiredness.

The 31-year-old told the Courier: “We thought she was coming down with a bug then a week later she was sick in the car.

“We realised she was getting worse so we contacted our GP who at first thought it might be a virus.

“Flora kept going downhill and lost her appetite.

“A week later we went back to the GP.

“Flora is not verbal so she couldn’t tell us if her tummy or head hurt, making it even harder but her stomach was bloated and we knew something wasn’t right.”

Blood tests were taken but, before the results were known, Flora’s condition worsened.

Her parents took her to A&E at the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh.

East Lothian Courier: Flora Gentleman was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was just two years oldFlora Gentleman was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was just two years old

Stephanie said: “Flora woke up one morning with bruising around her eyes.

“We took her to A&E and the doctors there could tell she was really unwell.

“Later that day they told us that her platelets were really low and they suspected she could have leukaemia.

“But within a few days they told us it was not leukaemia and they didn’t yet know what it was.

“We had a good couple of days not know, just sitting waiting and worrying.”

It was on April 1, 2001, that Flora was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma.

Her mum admitted she had never heard of the condition and doctors told her not to Google neuroblastoma as it would worry the family even more.

Stephanie said: “We were in shock.

“Flora started chemotherapy.

“What she had to go through would be difficult for any two-year-old to understand but autism added an extra layer to that.

“Hospital became like a second home to Flora and she would skip in and not want to leave which says a lot about the fantastic team who looked after her. They were amazing.”

READ MORE: Flora, three, flies to New York for special cancer treatment

Treatment went well but fears the cancer may return prompted Flora’s parents to launch a fundraising appeal to pay for Flora to take part in a vaccine trial in America.

Thanks to family, friends and complete strangers, £305,000 was raised in just over a year to pay for the trial and expenses to bring Flora to New York to enroll in the Bivalent Vaccine clinical trial at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York.

The family flew to New York for the first time in September last year and spent two months there while Flora received the first four of 10 vaccines to be administered over a three-year period.

They returned again in January for a fifth vaccine and again in April for number six.

They face a further trip this September and two next year before the treatment will be complete.

East Lothian Courier: Flora Gentleman has undergone treatment as part of a clinical trial in New YorkFlora Gentleman has undergone treatment as part of a clinical trial in New York

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with headline sponsor Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group, is an inspiring series of 3k, 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer by funding crucial research.  

This is the 30th year of Race for Life and all participants received an exclusive medal to mark the milestone.

Now organisers of Race for Life Edinburgh are sending a heartfelt message of thanks to everyone who put their best feet forward as well as their supporters.

And they’re appealing for people to make every step count by paying in sponsorship money as soon as possible.   



Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman in Scotland, said: “We are incredibly grateful to everyone who took part in Race for Life Edinburgh.

“Life-saving research is being funded right now thanks to our supporters who fundraise.

“The atmosphere at Race for Life Edinburgh was hugely moving - full of emotion, courage, tears and laughter as people celebrated the lives of those dear to them who have survived cancer and remembered loved ones lost to the disease.  

“Now we’re asking everyone who took part to return the money they’re raised as soon as possible. Funds raised - whether it’s £10 or £100 - will help scientists find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, helping save more lives.”