I felt my little girl’s swollen liver as I hugged her – it was a very scary time
SOPHIA Wylie was just two years old when her mum felt a strange lump under her ribs while hugging her.
Her concerned mum Danielle, 38, also noticed that her little girl was constantly poorly and picking up ‘every bug’ under the sun.
But every parent’s nightmare became real when the toddler was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a rare type of liver cancer.
Symptoms from the tumour will depend on how big it is and whether it has spread, but they can include a lump in the belly, tummy pain and swelling, tiredness and loss of appetite, according to Stanford Medicine.
The diagnosis marked the start of a ‘really scary time’ for the family.
But after months of treatment – including surgery to remove the tumour and six cycles of chemotherapy – Sophia was told in April last year that she’s cancer free.
Now four, she’s been able to start school for the first time, which dad James, 39, said was a ‘wonderful experience’ and added she ‘loved her first week’ there.
He said: “Sophia has been so excited about getting to school and asked over the last year if it was time yet.
“It has been very emotional seeing her take this big step, but her enthusiasm and excitement has made it a wonderful experience.
“She has loved her first week and we are so proud of her.
“There were so many times when we didn’t think these things were going to be possible.
“But we have a truly incredible daughter, who is such a strong fighter and is so kind and caring.
“She doesn’t let anything stop her from living life to the full and is a true inspiration to us all.”
Danielle and James took Sophia to the doctors when she started getting sick all the time and kept getting ‘every bug going’.
The youngster was then referred for an ultrasound at Leeds General Infirmary’s Oncology department, where doctors said they could see a mass on her liver.
Sophia had a MRI scan to investigate further, which is when the mum-of-two said her ‘worst fears were confirmed’, as the scan confirmed there was a tumour.
Danielle, of York, North Yorkshire, said: “It was at this point her dad James and I were trying to control our panic and keep things as relaxed as we could for Sophia.
“Really we were in denial, but our worst fears were confirmed when the MRI scan confirmed there was a tumour and that same day they wanted to take a biopsy and fit a port line into her chest area to enable treatment.
“From that moment we were thrown right into the deep end of cancer, tests and treatment.
“It was a really scary time.”
Sophia was then diagnosed with cancer and was placed on a clinical trial for a chemotherapy drug called Cisplatin.
However, doctors decided to remove the school girl from the trial – because her cancer was too aggressive.
She instead had an operation that removed the mass alongside having chemotherapy.
Danielle says this was an ‘extremely difficult time’ for Sophia and her family – but added that the youngster ‘was incredible’ and ‘kept us going.’
She said: “Part way through her chemotherapy Sophia had an operation to remove the mass.
“This surgery removed over a third of her liver, her gallbladder and part of her small intestine.
“During her recovery her stiches failed so she needed another operation just two weeks later to repair a hernia.
“It was an extremely difficult time.”
The brave little to hated having a port line – a thin tube used to give medicine or chemotherapy into a vein – as it restricted her movement.
She also experienced side effects from the treatment.
“She had severe sickness and was receiving lots of anti-sickness medication, fluids and drugs to help counter possible side effects of the chemotherapy.
“She really was incredible throughout it all and still is now. She’s kept us going.”
Danielle has said that the family have ‘started living again and returned to the world’ after Sophia was given the all-clear with her diagnosis.
Alongside starting school for the first time, the youngster has also been able to have her first ever birthday party and go on a bus for the first time.
Danielle said: “When Sophia was given the all clear we were of course delighted that the treatment was over, but also terrified waiting for the results of her monthly blood test.
“It took us a long time to process what had happened and for the fear of the cancer returning to reduce.
“I’m not sure it will ever go away.
“But this year has been our year to stop simply existing and start living again and return to the world.”
What are the symptoms of hepatoblastoma in a child?
Hepatoblastoma is a very rare cancer that starts as a tumour in the liver, usually affecting children less than three or four years old.
According to Stanford Medicine, it doesn’t usually spread to other areas of the body.
Symptoms will depend on the tumour’s size and each child will experience them differently but they can include:
- A lump in the belly
- A swollen abdomen
- Pain in the abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Feeling tired
- Nausea and vomiting
- Yellow colour to the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- Itchy skin
- Enlarged veins on the belly
The symptoms may resemble other child illnesses but it’s important your little one sees a doctor if they’re experiencing them.
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