A mother of two was shocked to discover that her three-year-old daughter’s seemingly innocent stomach ulcer was actually caused by an aggressive brain cancer.
Brooke McIlroy, 37, gave her daughter Luca breakfast when the toddler started vomiting and “ got a little shaky on her feet ” at their Perth home on May 4.
An urgent trip to the hospital prompted doctors to make the terrifying discovery that Luca was actually suffering from deadly brain cancer, leaving her family worried she wouldn’t survive.
Ms. McIlroy took Luca to Perth Children’s Hospital, where she was diagnosed with atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (ATRT) – a particularly aggressive cancer.
The large tumor pressed on Luca’s brainstem and cerebellum, parts of the brain responsible for sending and receiving messages to the rest of the body.
Brave Luca underwent seven hours of neurosurgery to remove the tumor on May 7 and is now recovering at home.
Luca McIlroy, 3, (photo) sleeps after neurosurgery to remove a cancerous tumor from her brain on May 7 – after her mom initially thought it was a stomach virus
Mother of two Brooke McIlroy, 37, (photo) hugs her daughter Luca after her surgery. Ms. McIlroy initially thought the three-year-old girl had a delayed concussion or stomach flu
In a conversation with Daily Mail Australia, Ms. McIlroy said she initially thought her daughter had a stomach virus or delayed concussion.
“A few weeks before (her diagnosis), she vomited at breakfast every day,” she said.
“She stumbled on things she wouldn’t normally do and while talking to her dad, we thought she had fallen causing a delayed concussion.
“I also thought she was having a stomach ache, so I quit dairy because I thought it was a diet and tried all of these things.”
Ms. McIlroy then took her to a GP, who had a CT scan to rule out a concussion.
By chance, the doctor scanned the same part of Luca’s brain where the tumor was festering and discovered the cancer.
“That doctor is an absolute hero. If it weren’t for that scan, we wouldn’t have discovered Luca’s tumor, “said Mrs. McIlroy.
The mother of two then brought Luca to Perth Children’s Hospital, where they officially diagnosed ATRT, with a high death rate, especially in infants.
Mrs. McIlroy and her two daughters Luca, 3 and Emmy, 6. The mother was initially “terrified” that she would lose her youngest daughter to cancer
Father Scott McIlroy hugs Emmy and Luca (photo). A FIFO employee, Mr. McIlroy flew into Perth and took care of Emmy while Mrs. McIlroy stayed at the hospital with Luca
After the grim initial diagnosis, Ms. McIlroy thought Luca would die.
“I was terrified. I thought we were going to lose her (Luca) and I didn’t know how to explain it to her sister or my ex-husband, “she said.
Ms. McIlroy’s ex-husband is a FIFO worker who flew in to take care of their other daughter Emmy, six, while Ms. McIlroy was staying with Luca at the hospital.
Luca had surgery on May 7, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, only one person, Ms. McIlroy, was able to visit Luca at ICU in the nine days following her surgery.
Luca’s sister Emmy and their father Scott finally saw her on May 17, ten days after the three-year neurosurgery.
Mrs. McIlroy’s sister, Lisa Wolski, has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the McIlroy family and Luca’s recovery.
Emmy is reunited with Luca after nine days at the ICU (photo). Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Emmy and her father were unable to visit Luca while recovering after surgery
With 787 donors, the page has reached the goal of $ 40,000 and reached $ 58,063.
The mother of two said she was “shocked” by the abundance of support from complete strangers.
‘I have no words. I’m amazed at the amount of support and love for Luca, ”she said.
“When my sister first started it (the GoFundMe), I actually said no. But since I needed her (Luca) to get a new stroller when she couldn’t walk, I let her do it.
Most of the money goes to research for this specific type of tumor, because it’s very rare and there’s no cure for it. We want to give back any help we can give. ‘
Meanwhile, Father Scott said, “I’m blown away by all these positive vibes. I cannot thank people enough. We are lucky to have the support of wonderful family, friends and community. Thankful forever. ”
Luca walks on the beach with the help of her mother. The three-year-old learns to walk again after her surgery
Luca was released from the hospital last week and is now learning to walk again while recovering at home with the rest of the McIlroy family.
“She has learned to sit again and not vomit. She’s starting to walk again now, but she needs help with balance, ”said Mrs. McIlroy.
“Her left arm is a little slower, but rehab is better than it was.”
The three-year-old was depicted laughing as she walked the beach on May 22 with the help of her mother.
Brooke decided to take Luca out of the house to the beach. The water turned out to be the perfect place for walking! read an update.
But the young girl still has a long way from intensive treatment ahead.
Mrs. McIlroy, Luca and Emmy pose for a photo in front of school. The mother said she struggled to break the news that Luca will need to treat her older daughter Emmy more in the hospital
From Tuesday 2 June, she will start with seven months of intensive treatment consisting of high-dose chemotherapy and radiation.
Ms. McIlroy said she is struggling to tell Luca’s older sister Emmy the news.
“I told her (Emmy) little bits, she’s a very excited six-year-old, she knows enough that it’s serious, she just doesn’t know how serious,” she told Daily Mail Australia.
“I’m not going to tell her everything at once, because I don’t want to scare her. But if Luca loses her hair from chemotherapy, I’m going to tell her things the way she needs them. ‘
Luca is in the hospital for a week and returns on her first chemotherapy sessions on certain days. But during later treatments, she will spend at least three weeks in the hospital.
“Since she is so young, treatment will be performed under general anesthesia, which will require her to stay in the hospital for most of this time,” GoFundMe read.
Luca is prone to recurrence, so regular MRI scanning is part of the protocol. Unfortunately, treatment options can be drastically reduced if the cancer reappears at this stage. ‘
Luca plays on a laptop. From Tuesday 2 June, she will start with seven months of intensive treatment consisting of high-dose chemotherapy and radiation