Devastation when ‘much-beloved’ 3-year-old dies after battle with cancer

A three-year-old girl died, leaving the community devastated.

Little Portia Williams, of a traveling family, died after 17 grueling months at Cardiff’s Noah’s Ark Hospital, where grandmother Linda Keefe said she “never complained or struggled in a way you wouldn’t believe”.

Portia was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in September 2021 and has been in the hospital every day since then, while mom Chloe and dad Jamie live at Ronald McDonald’s house next door, according to WalesOnline.

She completed her last round of chemotherapy in November 2021 and has since been in remission, but after a bone marrow transplant in January 2022, she was diagnosed with graft-versus-host disease, where white blood cells in the donor’s bone marrow attack other cells in the body.

This is because the donor cells, called a graft, perceive the body’s cells as foreign. According to medical experts, many cases of the disease can be successfully treated, but some can lead to serious and possibly fatal organ damage. Late last year, Portia’s family was told the damage to her lungs had been fatal.

“This girl fought in ways you won’t believe, she fought and fought in ways I could never fight,” Linda said. “She smiled every day and never complained. She was diagnosed 17 months ago. [my partner] Since then, Lian and I have not left her side. I have 11 other grandchildren, but she wouldn’t let me love any of them in front of her. She always said: “No, you are my nanny.” She was a funny and much loved little girl.

“December was really difficult, but we got through it and thought she was getting better. She was on some new medication recommended by the Great Ormond Street Hospital and her oxygen levels and oxygen saturation were as good as they had been for a long time. We hopefully prepared for a lung transplant, but on January 21 she died. It was just a shock. She went from coloring while sitting to disappearing after 24 hours.”

Linda said her family was “overwhelmed” by the support from family and friends, especially among travelers. “We brought Portia home after she died, and by tradition she lies in an open coffin and looks so peaceful and beautiful, lying there – as if she were sleeping. We had so many gifts and good wishes. We have a garden full of toys and a house full of flowers. We are so grateful.”

The family is planning “the biggest traveler funeral you’ve ever seen” on Thursday, February 9 from 2pm at Galon Uchaf, Merthyr Tydfil. “Porsha deserves to be heard,” Linda continued. “It will be really big. The number of people heartbroken by Portia is unbelievable. The support we have received from other traveling families, we cannot thank them enough. It will be a mass mobile funeral.”

Linda added that Portia’s one-year-old sister Meimae “clearly missed something” after Portia’s death. “Looking at Maemae now, you can tell she’s missing something, and that’s Portia. We all miss her incredibly. We will never overcome this, not in a million years.

“We will always cherish the moments she gave us. I will always remember how much we loved her. The most important thing I learned from her is how to truly love someone. We want to thank every single person in the Rainbow unit at the hospital who has helped Porsche over the past 17 months, and everyone in Ronald McDonald’s home who has been just as wonderful.”

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