The tenacity of a two-year-old girl turned out to be a sign of a rare form of cancer, although doctors repeatedly assured her parents that she only had a virus.
Beatriz Farmer-Maia, now three, suddenly became noticeably more affectionate and unhappy in July 2018, according to her parents.
Laura Farmer-Maia, 39, and husband Tiago Maia, 40, initially believed that it was only a phase. But they took their daughter to a doctor several times and A&E for several months because she also had a fever, sore legs and was picky about her food.
Doctors claimed they had a virus and prescribed antibiotics. But the concerned parents couldn't help google her symptoms.
They were shocked when they discovered that the search pointed to neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer in children with a 40 percent chance of long-term survival.
Maia insisted on more tests and refused to leave the hospital until a specialist had seen Beatriz.
On the same day, doctors finally discovered a lump above her kidney and diagnosed her with a neuroblastoma in September last year.
She has undergone chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant for a year and a half, but her metastatic cancer has persisted.
The parents of two, from London, who do not blame doctors for their mistakes, are now speaking for the first time to raise awareness of the difficulty of diagnosing cancer in children.
Beatriz Farmer-Maia & clinginess was a sign of the rare neuroblastoma of cancer after doctors repeatedly reassured her parents that she only had a virus
Beatriz has undergone chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant for a year and a half, but unfortunately her metastatic cancer has persisted. She is pictured in the hospital
Maia, originally from Portugal, said: “When my fears from Google turned out to be true, it was very strange, because although my life had just been turned upside down, I was almost relieved that I was right – it was weird and confusing . & # 39;
Mrs. Farmer-Maia, who works in advertising, said: “It's hard to get a diagnosis when a child is too young to explain how they feel, but in the back of our mind we knew it something bad.
& # 39; We want to draw attention to the difficulty of diagnosing cancer in young children – if your child does not seem well, you should push for further tests. & # 39;
Before she was diagnosed, Beatriz & # 39; was pretty naughty & # 39 ;. But when she reached two, she changed.
Maia, originally from Portugal and depicted with Beatriz, said: “When my fears from Google were true, it was very strange, although my life had just been turned upside down, I was almost relieved that I was right – it was weird and confusing & # 39;
The parents of Beatriz initially believed her affection was only a phase, but took her to a doctor and emergency room several times for several months because she also had a fever, sore legs and was picky about her food. She is pictured for her diagnosis
A Google search suggested that Beatriz had neuroblastoma, so they called for more tests
When a blood test showed that something was wrong with Beatriz, she was urgently referred to the hospital. Here it was thought that she had a virus twice more
WHAT IS NEUROBLASTOMA?
Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer that affects children and usually starts in the abdomen.
About 100 children, who are usually under the age of five, are diagnosed in the UK every year.
The disease affects around 800 new children in the US every year.
In about half of the cases, neuroblastoma spreads to other parts of the body, in particular the liver and skin.
The cause of Neuroblastoma is unclear. There may be a link to the family history.
The most important 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 advanced the cancer is and the risk that it will return after therapy.
Surgery and chemotherapy and radiotherapy are often used.
Source: Cancer Research UK
Mrs. Farmer-Maia said: “She suddenly became affectionate and picky with her food and had a fever all the time.
& # 39; We took her to the doctor who believed it was a virus and after repeated visits they gave her some antibiotics to cover a possible bacterial cause that had no effect.
& # 39; Beatriz started complaining that her legs hurt, so we took her to A&E, where they did some tests and still said it might be a virus. & # 39;
Later Mr. Maia Beatriz returned to the GP and insisted on more tests. A blood test showed that something was wrong and she was urgently referred to the hospital.
Maia said: – At the hospital they said twice that it was probably a virus and I refused to leave until I saw a specialist.
& # 39; I waited three hours for a more senior doctor to be free, and then Beatriz was examined by various specialists who allowed her to do all kinds of tests and observations, including x-rays & echoes – it was the last one to confirm that there was a clog. & # 39;
Beatriz had a tumor in her kidney, the most common place of a neuroblastoma tumor that develops in the nerve cells that run in a chain along the back of the breast and abdomen.
The most common symptoms of neuroblastoma, which approximately 100 children in the UK and 800 in the US are diagnosed each year, are poor appetite, weight loss, and lethargy.
The affection of Beatriz was not a direct symptom, but a sign that she was not feeling well.
Maia said: & # 39; I was pretty scared when Beatriz was diagnosed because my father and mother had only recently died of cancer – I thought of the worst.
& # 39; Everything went so fast and we all felt scared when they ran the tests. & # 39;
Beatriz was referred directly to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where they performed further tests, including scans, blood tests and biopsies.
Maia refused to leave the hospital until a specialist saw Beatriz and did more tests
Mrs. Farmer-Maia (center, with Beatriz left) said the treatment was difficult for the entire family. They had to spend a lot of time away from their other daughter, Clara, six (right)
Doctors discovered that the cancer had spread throughout her body, so she started chemotherapy a few weeks after being diagnosed.
In total she underwent eight debilitating chemo rounds during the 18 months.
Maia, a design director, said: & we were told that the treatment would last 18 months, which was a huge shock to us.
& # 39; A week after Beatriz started chemotherapy, she improved enormously, but it was difficult to be in the hospital first. & # 39;
Doctors then performed a stem cell transplant to regenerate the bone marrow that had been destroyed by high-dose chemo, meaning that Beatriz could not leave the hospital for eight weeks.
Mrs. Farmer-Maia said: & # 39; The stem cell transplant was a difficult time for us all because we had to spend a lot of time apart from our other daughter, Clara, six.
& # 39; Beatriz was diagnosed in Clara & # 39; s first week of school and it was difficult because that would be an exciting time for her. & # 39;
But after more scans, doctors found more metastatic growths in Beatriz & # 39; s head, which meant that the cancer had not completely disappeared and she had relapsed.
Doctors then performed a stem cell transplant to regenerate the bone marrow that had been destroyed by a high dose of chemo. But unfortunately Beatriz has since relapsed
The parents, who do not blame the doctors for their mistakes, speak for the first time to raise awareness of the difficulty of diagnosing cancer in children. Pictured, Beatriz
Beatriz's parents are trying to raise £ 200,000 to get their daughter in remission or to keep the cancer away if her treatment goes well. She is pictured in the hospital
The brave young person is now undergoing immunotherapy and will start a six-month medical trial at the NHS at Great Ormond Street Hospital, called the Beacon Trial.
It is uncertain whether the trial will work and, even if Beatriz goes into remission, relapse rates are high, but her parents are determined to do everything they can to prevent the cancer from returning.
Mrs. Farmer-Maia said: & # 39; After the stem cell transplant, the end was almost in sight, but then she fell back.
& # 39; Now she still has discomfort, but sometimes she is happy to be in the hospital because she has toys and people to play with her. & # 39;
Mrs. Farmer-Maia and Mr. Maia are trying to raise £ 200,000 to get their daughter in remission or to keep the cancer away if her treatment goes well.
The money hopes to go to further treatment, or if Beatriz is completely free, a special vaccine in New York that helps keep the disease away.
Mrs. Farmer-Maia said: & We are afraid that the cancer will get worse and worse and want to raise money to get her into remission – the ideal result is that the research works and clears the disease.
& Fortunately, compared to other two-year-olds, Beatriz has experienced fewer side effects from the treatment and despite losing her curly hair, she continues to flow. & # 39;
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