Page last updated at 18:33 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 19:33 UK

Pigs help toddler fight leukaemia


Catherine Nicholas, three, has been winning prizes for her pigs at agricultural shows while battling leukaemia

A three-year-old is winning her fight against leukaemia with the help of her prize-winning pigs.

Catherine Nicholas has picked up prizes for her pigs at agricultural shows at the same time as battling the illness.

Her farmer parents, from Raglan, Monmouthshire, believe her love of the animals is helping her through the gruelling medical treatment.

Her mother Rachel, 25, said: "Most kids like kittens or puppies but Catherine just loves pigs."

"If a big show is coming up she is determined to be there and that is helping her fight the illness.

"Winning prizes and rosettes gives Catherine a big boost. She was due to be in hospital during a show but she told the consultant: "You must let me go."

We really believe that Catherine's love of her pigs has been like a therapy for her
Rachel Nicholas, Catherine's mother

"He did and after winning first prize she took the rosette in to show to him and the nurses."

Catherine was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia exactly a year ago after she started bruising very easily.

She underwent courses of chemotherapy but was seriously ill at Christmas and her parents feared they might lose her.

She has had eight transfusions in the past four weeks and was having more chemotherapy at the Cardiff Children's Hospital on Wednesday.

But only-child Catherine is battling through it and her parents are hoping she will be well enough to start nursery school later this year.

Catherine Nicholas, her parents Rachel and Mark, and Harmony the pig

Rachel said: "We really believe that Catherine's love of her pigs has been like a therapy for her.

"She looks after them, gets them ready for showing and takes them into the parade ring.

"When she's in hospital she can't wait to get out again to look after them."

Catherine looks after a litter of 13 baby piglets born at the 350 acre farm her parents run.

She loves to name the little pigs, usually after her favourite flowers.

The family has pinned up more than 70 colourful rosettes from agricultural shows in their

Catherine this year became the youngest entrant at any Royal Welsh Show, where her seven-month-old British Lop pig Harmony was named champion in the traditional breed category.

She and Harmony also competed in the Pig of the Year contest in Harrogate earlier this month.

Her gruelling schedule would be daunting for a fit and healthy adult - but Catherine takes it all in her stride.

On 14 July she underwent chemotherapy before travelling to Harrogate the next day.

She showed her pig on the Thursday and returned to Cardiff for more chemotherapy the following day.

Rachel said: "It is exhausting for us but Catherine loves it and every day for her is a precious one.

"And the great thing is she doesn't mind when her little piggies to to market - it doesn't bother her a bit."

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