Niamh’s symptoms were very mild so her cancer was diagnosed quite late. Wilms’ tumours are usually discovered between the ages of three and five and Niamh was six years old.
She used to complain about tummy aches and feeling sick, but she never actually vomited. She didn’t look particularly bloated, perhaps a little heavier than other girls when she was wearing her ballet outfit, but nothing unusual. The symptoms were so subtle.
One Friday, she came out of school, and told me that her tummy was hurting. I took her to the GP straight away as we were able to get an appointment. The GP found the mass immediately and suspected it was in her spleen. We went to hospital that very afternoon and the wheels were set in motion.
At the hospital, further checks were carried out and there was a very large tumour coming from her kidneys. It was so large that it was pushing her heart, spleen and abdomen. Niamh’s tumour had spread to her lungs and we were told that that she had stage 4 disease. They wouldn’t be able to stage the tumour until it was removed. This would happen after she had completed two months of chemotherapy.
I understand now that the medical team were following protocol from a 10-year research study, and thankfully, Niamh is benefiting from this important research. But at the time, I felt like I wasn’t getting answers to my questions.
She was given odds of 60-70% survival right at the beginning of her treatment, but the only statistic that matters is your own child.