Parents of a cancer-stricken toddler revealed today how they thought her symptoms were due to a virus instead.
Ava Bolton, from East Ayrshire, Scotland, had bruises around her eyes and started limping around Christmas.
Soon after, the three-year-old became ill, pale and lethargic.
Her parents, Scott and Natalie, both 34, thought it was a virus, but after the little one refused to walk, they took her to a GP.
In mid-January, Ava was referred to the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow.
Ava Bolton, from Scotland, was diagnosed with high-risk, stage four, neuroblastoma
Doctors initially thought it was transient erythroblastopenia of childhood (TEC) – a slowly developing anemia, meaning she had low levels of iron in her blood
Ava, who is pictured with her brother Lucas, had bruises around her eyes and started limping around Christmas time before becoming sick, pale and lethargic
Blood work and a bone marrow sample revealed she had stage four neuroblastoma that had spread throughout her body.
A CT scan showed it had reached her back, shoulders, pelvis, hip and shin.
WHAT IS NEUROBLASTOMA?
Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer that affects children and usually begins in the abdomen.
Around 100 children, mostly under five, are diagnosed each year in the UK.
The disease affects about 800 new children in the US each year.
In about half of cases, neuroblastoma spreads to other parts of the body, especially the liver and skin.
The cause of neuroblastoma is unclear. There may be a connection to family history.
The main symptom is usually a lump in the abdomen, which can cause swelling, discomfort, or pain.
If the disease affects the spinal cord, it can lead to numbness, weakness, and loss of movement in the lower part of the body.
Treatment depends on how far the cancer has progressed and the risk of it returning after therapy.
Surgery and chemotherapy and radiotherapy are commonly used.
Source: Cancer Research UK
Natalie, a primary care nurse, said their family’s “whole world came crashing down” and they are “totally devastated.”
It is said that Ava was very healthy and only had a few colds before diagnosis.
Doctors also initially told the parents they suspected it was transient erythroblastopenia of childhood (TEC) – a form of anemia.
Neuroblastoma mainly affects babies and young children. It develops from specialized nerve cells – neuroblasts – left behind by a baby’s development in the womb.
In stage four, the cancer has spread to parts of the body that are some distance from where it started — usually to the bones, bone marrow, or liver.
Each year, around 100 children in the UK and 800 young people in the US are diagnosed with the rare cancer, which is most common in children under the age of five.
About half of those diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma will live another five years after their diagnosis.
Discussing her daughter’s diagnosis, Natalie said, “She takes it all for granted.
“She has made us very proud of how she handles everything.
‘She’s always had a smile on her face and is a bit of a chatterbox – keeping all the staff entertained with her antics.
“But she misses spending time at home with her five-year-old brother Lucas and her childhood friends.”
Ava will spend six weeks in an isolation room, six weeks in the hospital, and once she has recovered from chemo, she will receive targeted radiotherapy before receiving six months of immunotherapy.
Her mother Natalie, 34, knew something was right with her little girl when she refused to walk
Natalie and Scott, 34, said their ‘whole world came crashing down’ and they are ‘totally devastated’
Ava will remain in an isolation room for six weeks, in the hospital for six weeks, and once she has recovered from chemotherapy, she will undergo targeted radiotherapy before receiving six months of immunotherapy.
Ava’s family is now raising money to send her to New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for a new vaccine treatment that aims to prevent neuroblastoma from returning
Scans show the toddler’s illness is “going in the right direction.”
Her family is now raising money to send her to New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for a new vaccine treatment that aims to prevent the disease from returning.
The vaccine is designed to trigger the patient’s body to produce antibodies to attack the cancer cells.
It’s not currently available in the UK, but the family has raised £107,000 so far – almost half of their £250,000 goal.
Natalie said: ‘We are hopeful that we will reach our goal – we are almost half way through after just two months and have had great feedback from our local community.
“We have spoken to several families who have been through or are currently undergoing treatment for MSK in New York with great results so far that give us hope and confidence in the treatment.
“Without this treatment, Ava is more likely to relapse, reducing her chances of survival — this is something we don’t want to risk.”