The family of a four-year-old Stevenage girl battling leukaemia after a shock diagnosis say they have been bolstered by incredible support from the community, and are encouraging parents with medical concerns about their children to be persistent with doctors.

Francesca Ferguson says her daughter Elianna first "started to make complaints of bone pain and that her heart felt funny" in March.

She was pale, lethargic and tearful. Francesca said: "We thought it was a growth spurt, and she was tired because she'd just gone back to school after lockdown."

But Elianna began to wake with swelling around her eyes. Francesca said "she didn't look like my child" and thought it was an allergic reaction.

GP visits and an ECG didn't reveal the cause of Elianna's symptoms.

Francesca said: "One morning, she was eating toast and started choking and struggling to breathe, so I called 999."

The Comet: Elianna began feeling ill in MarchElianna began feeling ill in March (Image: Francesca Ferguson)

Following a blood test and chest x-ray, which found a mass restricting her airway, Elianna was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

She has since had chemotherapy, transfusions, a lumbar puncture and steroids, and is facing two years of treatment.

Francesca and husband Anthony, who own Renegade Fitness Academy in Stevenage, say they have been overwhelmed by the community rallying round to support their family, with more than £20,000 raised through Go Fund Me to help ensure they can be by Elianna's side when she needs them most.

Francesca said: "The community has come together for us - it's been incredible. We've been hit really hard by the pandemic as a business, and Elianna was diagnosed two days before we were due to reopen. This money means we won't need to worry about things like travelling costs to the hospital."

The Comet: Elianna pictured here with mum Francesca, dad Anthony and brother AshtonElianna pictured here with mum Francesca, dad Anthony and brother Ashton (Image: Francesca Ferguson)

The couple is encouraging parents not to hesitate seeking medical help if they are worried about their child, and to persist until satisfied. Francesca said: "Go with your gut and don't be put off. If you know something isn't right, you must persist. You are an expert in your own child."

Leukaemia symptoms can include fever, fatigue, weight loss, frequent infections and easy bleeding or bruising.