Ava's Story

Ava's story

Who knew babies could get cancer?

Felicity, Ava's mum Felicity, Ava's mum

When her daughter Ava was eight weeks old, Felicity noticed her stomach was bloated. Everyone told her not to worry; it was probably just a reaction to formula - but a couple of weeks later, Ava started vomiting.

meet Ava

Meet Ava

To hospital

An ultrasound at Princess Margaret Hospital, Perth, showed a 10cm-long mass squashing Ava's bowel and stomach - which is what had been causing the vomiting.

Ava To hospital

I knew she was sick but I never, in my wildest nightmares, every thought it could be cancer.

Felicity, Ava's mumFelicity, Ava's mum

Oncology ward

Felicity thought they'd go in, remove the tumour and everything would be fine. It wasn't until they started moving Ava to the oncology ward that she realised the 'mass' was cancer.

The air sucked out of my lungs and my heart dropped like a stone. This couldn't be happening to my beautiful baby girl.

Felicity, Ava's mumFelicity, Ava's mum

Diagnosis

Ava's first biopsy revealed she had stage 4 neuroblastoma with secondary cancer in her bone marrow.

Ava Diagnosis

Neuroblastoma is the most common 'solid tumour' of early childhood, and is generally diagnosed when the disease is advanced. Around half of all children with neuroblastoma have aggressive tumours, and fewer than half of these patients survive, even after intensive treatment.

I asked the oncologist, 'Is Ava going to die?' She said, 'I can't tell you no, but I'll tell you when it's time to panic.'

Felicity, Ava's mumFelicity, Ava's mum

Treatment

Ava began her chemotherapy treatment and responded well. But because the cancer she had was so aggressive, the journey would take years of hospital visits, scans and tests.

Side-effects

The drugs were so toxic, Felicity and her husband Mark had to wear protective clothing. But as gruelling as the treatment was, it did its job - and after five months Ava's tumour had shrunk and her bone marrow was clear.

Ava Side-effects

Remission

After 14 months and a few false starts, Ava was declared in remission in October 2011. She doesn't remember the chemotherapy, but she remembers all the scans and ultrasounds that happened afterwards.

Ava Remission

I wept uncontrollably. The relief was immense.

Felicity, Ava's mumFelicity, Ava's mum

Ava today

Now seven, Ava loves swimming, dancing and Taylor Swift. She struggles at school and with her short-term memory, but wants to be a doctor or nurse when she grows up.

Ava Ava today

A team of our scientists has identified an experimental drug called CBL137, which when used in conjunction with chemotherapy has the potential to stop neuroblastoma tumour growth in its tracks.

Our laboratory tests tell us that CBL0137 is likely to be very effective against the most aggressive neuroblastomas, and that is very exciting.

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