Jean-Christophe Novelli has spoken for the first time about the heartbreaking moment he had to tell his sons that their baby brother has cancer. Little Valentino is just ten-weeks-old, and battling neuroblastoma, a rare form of the disease which affects the nervous system. The TV chef and his partner Michelle had hoped to shelter their two elder children, Jean Frankie, eight, and four-year-old Jacques, from the news, but were forced to sit down with the boys when rumours started circulating around their school.
"It's been difficult," Jean-Christophe told Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield during an appearance on This Morning on Monday. "They clearly knew something as Valentino was not at home.
Jean-Christophe and Michelle pictured with their baby son Valentino
"One morning, I was taking my eight-year-old to school and he said to me, 'I don't understand, everyone is mentioning Valentino's name at school.' At that point I realised I had to tell them the truth. I had to sit them down and tell them what cancer is and what is going on."
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Valentino was born on 7 September, and at first seemed to be a "very fit baby, getting stronger every day". But, one evening the couple noticed an "unusually hard lump" in his neck, and after taking their son for an MRI scan were given the devastating news that he had Stage 4S neuroblastoma.
"The thing is with cancer, you always believe it will be somebody else," Jean-Christophe added. "On both sides of our family, there is no history of cancer."
The French chef's appearance on the show came after he and Michelle gave an emotional interview to the Sunday Mirror, in which they admitted they had been shaken to the core by Valentino's diagnosis. The couple found the lump on the newborn’s neck on 23 October, and announced the news on 4 November – the same day Michael Bublé and his wife Luisana Lopilato revealed their son Noah is also battling cancer.
"There have been nights when I have sat alone, crying, asking God why this has happened to my little boy and not to me. I wish I could change places with him," Jean-Christophe confessed. "Valentino is so tiny. You feel utterly helpless. My heart goes out to the Bublés and any other family facing cancer."