No parent should have to hear that their child has cancer
After triage the Paediatric Director examined Caroline and I’ll never forget the moment he said: “That’s not a lump on her tongue, its muscle wastage”. It meant nothing, but his face stated the real news. We are blessed that he was on duty then.
It transpired that something was pressing on Caroline’s tongue nerves. They did an ultrasound and my husband brought sleepwear. We were bewildered and emotionally exhausted. Next day we were transferred to Paediatric Oncology at the incredible Great North Children’s Hospital at Newcastle’s RVI for an MRI. Caroline had a soft palate biopsy under general anaesthetic. There aren’t words to describe those days. Caroline’s fighting spirit was apparent from the start though; on discharge she danced in her pyjamas, dosed on morphine pain relief.
Her voice diminished rapidly until she could barely be understood. Five days later we met the consultant oncologist, who delivered the devastating news and was our rock throughout her treatment. I kept saying ‘It’s ok’. The consultant said: “None of this is OK. No parent should have to hear that their child has cancer.” This was 6 March.
We didn’t leave the hospital for 19 days. The tumour was inoperable due to its location. Caroline underwent CT, heart, kidney and lung scans, bone marrow, lumbar punctures and blood tests by the dozen it seemed. She had to have a general anaesthetic to insert the central Hickman line for delivering drugs and taking blood, plus insertion of a nasogastric tube (swiftly removed at Caroline’s request. She had no intention of needing a feeding tube!)