You think it won't happen to you, but childhood cancer doesn't discriminate.Chloe, Isaac's mum
Chloe took her 20-month-old son Isaac to the doctor. He was irritable, unsettled and had developed a head tilt. The GP thought he may have slept awkwardly and prescribed some antibiotics as Isaac also had impetigo at the time. But when Isaac hadn't improved a couple of days later, Chloe knew something wasn't right.
Chloe was advised to take Isaac to the emergency department at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick. When the neurologist assessed Isaac, he wasn't able to pick items off the ground without crawling or losing his balance.
Isaac wouldn't fall asleep for a brain scan, so an anaesthetist came in at 7am. Isaac had an MRI scan under general anaesthetic, which would be the first of 40 anaesthetics he'd endure during his treatment journey.
The neurologist said to me, "We're looking for a lump; you won't be going home today." I still didn't grasp what was happening.
The brain surgeon and neurologist explained that the lump on Isaac's brain was most likely a brain tumour and that surgery was required to remove it.
Brain tumours are the most fatal of all childhood cancers, making them an immediate priority of Children’s Cancer Institute’s Zero Childhood Cancer program.
I was severely distressed. I didn't even know brain tumours could grow in children.
Operation & diagnosis
Isaac was placed in intensive care before his operation. Surgeons removed the whole tumour, which was then biopsied. He was diagnosed with stage 2 ependymoma.
Isaac underwent six weeks of radiotherapy, which required a daily general anaesthetic and fasting from 3am. Fortunately, the radiotherapy was very effective and no chemotherapy was required.
My team aims to find new treatments that specifically target brain tumour cells while sparing normal cells.
Now nearly four, Isaac goes to pre-school and loves soccer and ice-skating. Chloe is now working as a new graduate registered nurse at her local hospital and is passionate about helping us raise awareness of brain tumours in children.
There's not much awareness of brain tumours - but something that can cause a child to go from healthy to having a deadly disease deserves more attention.