Celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli reveals his son Valentino, three, has been diagnosed with autism after overcoming a rare childhood cancer and cannot say 'Mummy' or 'Daddy'
- Little Valentino was given the all-clear from stage four neuroblasoma a year ago
- Parents Jean-Christophe, 58, and Michelle, 44, were told he had microdeletion
- After symptoms became apparent doctors have confirmed he has autism
Chef Jean-Christophe Novelli has revealed his three-year-old son has been diagnosed with autism after overcoming an aggressive childhood cancer.
Jean Christophe, 58, and partner Michelle Kennedy, 44, could not contain their joy when they celebrated their son Valentino's second birthday last year.
It was no normal toddler's birthday party, as little Valentino had just been given the all-clear after being diagnosed with neuroblastoma at just 10 weeks.
A year later, Valentino is three, and his mother and father are facing a new challenge after doctors told them he has autism. But the celebrity chef says he is just pleased he is still alive.
Medics told his parents he had a microdeletion syndrome, when there is a microscopic break in a person's chromosomes, when he was being treated for cancer.
Although half of people with a microdeletion live normal lives, they can have wide-ranging effects from autistic traits and heart problems to development issues.
Chef Jean-Christophe Novelli (pictured with fiancee Michelle Kennedy) has revealed his three-year-old son Valentino (with them) has been diagnosed with autism after overcoming an aggressive childhood cancer
Unfortunately little Valentino is unable to say 'Mummy' or 'Daddy', but following their cancer trauma, his parents are just grateful he is still with them.
Jean-Christophe told the Sunday Mirror: ''It's a lot to take in. We just think oh my god, can we not just give this boy a break?
'He's been on a real long journey though and if he can beat cancer, he can handle this. He's a little fighter and we are looking on the positive side.
'When Michelle told me he has severe autism I just thought 'thank f***, at least he's alive'. Even in this situation, we are very, very privileged, we live in a great country.'
He revealed he is a solitary child and his speech development is slow.
Valentino also depends heavily on his mother, not letting his father or his older brothers give him a kiss, Jean-Christophe adds.
Jean-Christophe has two older boys Jean, 11, and Jacques, seven, with partner Michelle and a daughter Christina, 32, from his first marriage.
He says after his symptoms raised alarms bells when he was younger, doctors finally diagnosed him last week.
They are now desperate to find out how the syndrome will effect him and are testing for conditions like schizophrenia, which doctors say could be a possibility.
Appearing on This Morning last October, the couple recalled the horror of finding a lump on the side of their son's neck just a few weeks after he was born in 2016.
They rushed him to A&E and a few days later experts diagnosed him with neuroblastoma after MRI scans came back showing tumours all around his neck.
What is a microdeletion syndrome?
Microdeletion syndromes occur when there is a microscopic break in a person's chromsomes.
They are called microdeletions because the break is smaller than 5 million base pairs (Mb).
The most common microdeletion syndromes are DiGeorge syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome.
DiGeorge syndrome, also known as 22q syndrome, is caused by a small deletion in chromosome 22.
Symptoms can vary but they include specific facial features, frequent infections and congenital heart problems.
Microdeletion syndromes can often result in slowed development.
They were too dangerous to operate on so he quickly began a gruelling round of chemotherapy.
Asked how Valentino coped with the treatment, Michelle said: 'He coped like all the other children we met at the hospital. They suffer. It's horrendous sickness, blisters.'
Her fiance added: 'The problem having your baby when he's six weeks old going through this experience, the only thing he had is eye contact and you could see the tears and the pain he was going through.
'He was trying to understand himself what was going on.'
Asked how they coped as parents, Michelle said: 'We had to split our responsibilities.
'Jean stayed at home with our two boys and worked and I went to be by Valentino's side. We just had to work it out from there.'
But then Michelle fell ill herself, developing a blood clot in her leg that could have killed her.
Although doctors managed to 'save her leg', it meant she was separated from Valentino for 10 days, which she said was very hard.
Jean-Christophe is pictured on his Cullinary Genius series in May 2017
It was on the chef's mother's birthday in April that doctors told them their son was finally in remission.
They had been fearful things were getting worse when medics increased the strength of chemotherapy drugs because they weren't working.
Jean-Christophe will soon appear on TV show Celebrity Hunted alongside fellow chef Aldo Zilli.
He says he has a reduced his working hours to spend more time with his family.