Much-loved Merthyr Tydfil toddler dies after 17 month battle with cancer

Porsha Williams was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in September 2021. Credit: Media Wales

A three-year-old who underwent a bone marrow transplant after being diagnosed with cancer has passed away. 

Porsha Williams, from a traveller family in Merthyr Tydfil, died on 21 January following 17 gruelling months at Noah’s Ark Hospital for Wales in Cardiff.

Her grandmother, Lynda Keefe, said the youngster never "complained and has fought like you wouldn't believe”. Porsha was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in September 2021.

Following that, she spent every day in hospital while her parents, Chloe and Jamie, lived in the Ronald McDonald house next door.

The child had her last chemotherapy treatment in November 2021 and had been in remission since that. But following a bone marrow transplant in January 2022 she was diagnosed with graft versus host disease (GvHD), where white blood cells in the donated bone marrow attack other cells in the body.

It is caused when donated cells – referred to as the graft – see the body’s cells as foreign.

Porsha with her dad Jamie. Credit: Media Wales

Many cases of the disease can be treated successfully but some can cause severe and possibly fatal damage to the organs. Porsha’s family were told late last year that the damage caused to her lungs was fatal.

Lynda said: “That girl has fought like you wouldn’t believe, she’s fought and fought like I could never fight. She smiled every day and never complained.

"She was diagnosed 17 months ago and [my partner] Liam and I haven’t left her side since.

"I’ve got 11 other grandchildren but she wouldn’t let me love any of them in front of her. She always said: ‘No, you’re my nanny.’ She was a funny and extremely loved little girl.

“December was really difficult but we got through it and thought she was improving. She was on some new medication recommended by Great Ormond Street Hospital and her oxygen levels and sats were as good as they’ve been in a long time.

"We were heading for a lung transplant with hope but she passed away on January 21. It was absolutely shocking. She went from sitting up colouring to 24 hours later being gone.”

The family say they have been “blown away” by the support from relatives and friends, especially within the traveller community.

Porsha with her family in hospital. Credit: Media Wales

Lynda said: “We brought Porsha home after she died and as is tradition she’s lay in an open casket and looks so peaceful and beautiful lying there – just like she’s sleeping.

"We’ve had so many gifts and good wishes. We’ve got a garden full of toys, a house full of flowers. We are so grateful.”

The family is planning “the biggest traveller funeral you’ve ever seen” on February 9 in Galon Uchaf, Merthyr Tydfil.

Lynda said: “Porsha deserves to be heard. It’s going to be really big. The amount of people heartbroken over Porsha is unbelievable. The support we’ve had from other travelling families, we can’t thank them enough. This is going to be one massive travelling funeral.”

The gran said Porsha’s one-year-old sister, Maemae, was “clearly missing something” since she died.

Lynda added: “Looking at Maemae now you can tell she is missing something and that’s Porsha. We are all missing her unbelievably. We’ll never get over this – not in a million years.

“We will always hold dear the moments she gave us. I’ll always remember how much we loved her. The most important thing I’ve learned from her is how to really love someone.

"We want to send our thanks to every single person on the Rainbow ward at the hospital who helped Porsha over the last 17 months and everyone at the Ronald McDonald house who were equally amazing.”

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