Many years ago it was thought that cancer was an “old person’s disease,” and unfortunately some people still think that it is…
Cancer is not an old person’s disease; it is a disease that strikes at any age and affects everyone, irrespective of gender or race.
Virtually every single person on this planet has been affected by cancer in some way or the other, be it personally, a family member or a friend…
Childhood Cancer is possibly the most devastating for various reasons, including that there is too little awareness around paediatric cancer, and that too little is spent on research into childhood cancer.
Children are treated with the same poisonous drugs that adults are and experience the same if not worse side-effects from the treatment, and lastly, the mortality rates are too high!
Seeing one’s child try to battle a disease over which one has no control and for which there is no cure is the absolute worst thing that any parent can experience, yet tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of parents across the globe have to go through this ordeal every year; watching their child sufffer while they valiantly fight this dreaded disease and too often lose the battle.
Mia’s Mission: A family’s Fight Against Brain Cancer
It’s something no parent, should ever have to face, but it’s a reality.
Research shows fifteen thousand children are diagnosed with cancer every year… many never go into remission. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children after accidents. We often don’t hear or see these stories because of the monumental pain.
One-year-old Mia was diagnosed with brain cancer. Her mother Anessa said, “They’ve never seen her tumour before. They don’t know what kind it is. They know what it could be similar to, but it’s not. There’s no classification for it. They’ve never seen it.”
Anessa knew something was wrong from the start, as Mia was sick from birth. She battled constant ruptured eardrums and infections, colic and vomited daily. Her eyes were often going in different directions.
Doctors said she had motion sickness and a lazy eye. They took X-rays of her stomach and completed blood work, but the tests showed nothing severe. Those tests didn’t show the high-grade brain tumor Mia was born with. The pressure of the tumor on her brain caused the other illnesses.
Anessa and Scott Richardson took their daughter to the doctor constantly, on a weekly basis and still no diagnosis, then Mia went blind, which finally convinced doctors to do an MRI.
“They said they don’t want to sedate babies — they didn’t want to have to sedate her. But it could have saved her life,” Anessa says.
“From the time she went blind, this tumor had spread rapidly. Tumors down her spine, tumors in her brain, the main tumor on her brain — if we could have caught it earlier, things could have been different.
Her outcome in the end may have been the same, but we would have had a lot longer with her and her chemo wouldn’t have been so hard. An early diagnosis for these children is key.”
The family spent the next six months at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, where Mia was on a very high dose of chemotherapy.
That, however, caused LMD — leptomeningeal disease — which affects about 5 % of cancer patients and has no known cure. According to an article published on The National Center for Biotechnology Information website, “the presence of LMD indicates a very advanced stage of cancer with a grave prognosis.”
When several rounds of chemo didn’t work, they returned home from St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
Knowing that their tiny warrior’s lifelong battle was almost over (her parents were told they only have a few weeks left to hold their child), they decided to let Mia rest gently in the bosom of her loving family for however long she had left.
There was a wooden block stretched across the fireplace mantle that said “Twinkle, twinkle little star, do you know how loved you are?”
These simple words have great meaning for the family, because “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” was one of their daughter’s favourite songs and they wanted to let their darling daughter know how much she was loved as she neared her second birthday.
Mia had to take about a dozen medications to ease the pain, seizures and swelling.
She lay there on the one side of the couch for about a week, covered with a pink blanket, and looking like an infant even though she was almost 2 – she would not move off her mother’s lap.
“This is where I am … twenty-four hours a day,” said Anessa Richardson.
Holding onto her little fingers, Scott and Anessa know these moments will soon be memories.
“Christmas. I don’t get Christmas with her. We don’t get to buy presents for her. I don’t get to do birthday parties for her. I don’t get to braid her hair. I don’t get to send her to school,” Anessa cried.
“Right now the goal is to get her to her birthday,” Scott said.
A few days later, Mia woke up on her second birthday and made a sound her parents hadn’t heard in a while. She giggled. Later that day, on her second birthday, Mia died.
“I don’t want any other family to have to do this. Ever,” said Anessa.
That’s their Mission … make that Mia’s Mission. Anessa and Scott want you to know the early signs of brain cancer.
“If you think something is wrong and you have a gut feeling its wrong … you need to go. You need to push,” said Scott.
Mia had ear infections, severe vision problems and motion sickness. Mia’s Mission isn’t just about awareness, it’s about pushing for more research.
“You hear your kids are your future … and you don’t put money into it,” Scott said.
The National Cancer Institute spends less than four percent of its budget on childhood cancers. Brain cancer has replaced leukaemia as the leading cause of cancer deaths among kids.