A Wigan family has spoken of its double blow after the grandfather of a brave little girl having proton beam therapy lost his own cancer battle.
Popular James Fleming died suddenly at Wigan Infirmary while receiving treatment last Thursday, aged just 61.
His four-year-old granddaughter Molly is currently in Florida with Mr Fleming’s son Paul and the rest of her family as she is herself being treated for ependymoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer.
Devastated relatives spoke of a private man who didn’t want to burden his family going through their own health ordeal but who was also well-known and much-loved in the local area.
Born in Norley Hall, Mr Fleming lived in Kitt Green at the time of his death and lived much of his life in that area.
His son Stewart, who led the tributes, said: “It’s a double blow. I’ve only got one brother and obviously he’s not here. M have come through it, but once February came he just went back downhill.
“He was like a friend as well as a day dad kept quiet about his illness to Paul because he wanted him to stay strong for Molly.
“It’s all just happened so quickly. We expected him to be home from hospital on Friday after an operation but he had a heart attack and that just sped everything up.
“He had radiotherapy and seemed tod. I could tell him anything and we could always go up to him and ask for advice.
“He was quite a quiet man in some regards but in the Marsh Green and Kitt Green areas everyone knew him. He was also a mad Manchester United fan and he used to take me to games at Old Trafford when I was a kid.”
Mr Fleming had battled health issues for some time and initially fought against cancer in his neck, but earlier this year was given the bad news that it had returned, spreading to several of his internal organs.
He died last Thursday afternoon at the hospital with family members surrounding his bed.
Tanya Barnes, a cousin of Paul and Stewart, said: “James was a lovely man, a genuinely nice person.
“He was very family-oriented and also was a good character.”
Thankfully the Fleming family has received more encouraging news from the States, where Molly is with her parents Paul Fleming and Clare Grundy as well as her siblings, five-year-old Harley, Thomas, three, and the youngest addition to the family, Jacob.
Approaching the half-way mark of her course of proton beam therapy she is responding extremely well to the treatment and is now able to stay awake while at hospital rather than having to be put under anaesthetic.
The family is expected to return to the UK at the end of June or the beginning of July, as Molly will need some monitoring from the medical experts in Jacksonville.