Docs said our toddler was just clingy but we learned the truth on Google it was cancer – The Sun

By daniellenierenberg

WHEN Laura Farmer-Maia's daughter suddenly became clingy and unhappy, she initially brushed it off as nothing but "a phase".

And given little Beatriz was just three-years-old, the last thing to cross her mind was cancer.

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Yet, months after doctors repeatedly dismissed the symptoms as clinginess, the diagnosis was confirmed - Beatriz had an aggressive childhood cancer known as a neuroblastoma.

The horrifying news came after Beatriz's father Tiago Maia refused to leave the hospital after discovering the potential diagnosis himself on Google.

Shocked, Laura, 39, and Tiago, 40, are now urging all parents to be vigilant and check their kids for signs of the disease.

The mum, who works in advertising, first suspected something was wrong last July, when Beatriz's behaviour dramatically changed.

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She said: "Before she was diagnosed, Beatriz was quite naughty but when she reached two, she suddenly became clingy and picky with her food, and had a fever all the time.

"We took her to the GP who believed it was a virus and after recurrent visits they gave her some antibiotics to cover for a potential bacterial cause, which didnt have any effect.

"Beatriz started to complain that her legs hurt so we took her to A&E, where they did some more tests and still said it might be a virus.

"Its hard to get a diagnosis right when a child is too young to explain how theyre feeling, but in the back of our minds we knew it was something bad.

"We want to spread awareness of the difficulty of diagnosing cancer in young children - if your child doesnt seem right, you should push for further tests."

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Tiago pushed the GP for more tests, and blood tests showed something was wrong, so Beatriz was sent urgently to hospital.

It was there medics finally discovered a lump above her kidney and diagnosed her with neuroblastoma in September last year.

The cancer is aggressive and has a 40 per cent chance of long-term survival.

Everything moved so quickly and we all felt frightened as they carried out the tests

Tiago, originally from Portugal, added: "At the hospital, they twice said it was likely to be a virus and I refused to leave until I saw a specialist.

"I waited for three hours until a more senior doctor was free, and then Beatriz was examined by different specialists who admitted her to do all kinds of tests and observations including X-rays and ultrasounds - it was the last one that confirmed there was a lump.

"When my fears from Google turned out to be true, it was very strange because even though my life had just flipped upside down, I was almost relieved to be right - it was weird and confusing."

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Beatriz was referred straight to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where they carried out further tests including scans, blood tests and biopsies.

She began chemotherapy just a week after being diagnosed and underwent eight gruelling rounds of chemo over the next 18 months.

Doctors then carried out a stem cell transplant to regenerate bone marrow destroyed by high dose chemo, which meant Beatriz couldnt leave the hospital for eight weeks.

Tiago, a design director, said: "I was quite scared when Beatriz was diagnosed because my mum and dad had only recently died from cancer I thought of the worst.

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"Everything moved so quickly and we all felt frightened as they carried out the tests.

"Doctors found that the cancer had spread across her body, so she began chemotherapy just weeks after being diagnosed.

"We were told the treatment would last 18 months which was a massive shock to us.

"A week after Beatriz started chemotherapy she massively improved, but it was tricky being in hospital at first.

"Now, she still has periods of discomfort but sometimes shes happy to be in hospital because she has toys and people to come and play with her."

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Laura added: "The stem cell transplant was a hard time for us all because we had to spend a lot of time apart from our other daughter, Clara, six.

"Beatriz was diagnosed in Claras first week of school and it was difficult because that was supposed to be an exciting time for her."

After more scans and hopes of an all-clear, doctors found more metastatic growths still remaining in Beatrizs head, which meant that the cancer hadnt fully cleared up and she had relapsed.

The brave youngster is now undergoing immunotherapy and is due to start a six month medical trial on the NHS at Great Ormond Street Hospital, called the Beacon Trial.

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What is neuroblastoma?

Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that most commonly afflicts babies and young children.

The disease develops from special nerve cells, known as neuroblasts, which get left behind from the child's development in the womb.

It mostly begins in the sufferer's adrenal glands located above the kidneys but can occur in the nerve tissue that runs along the spinal cord in the neck, chest, abdomen or pelvis.

The vicious illness can then spread to other organs like the bone, bone marrow, lymph nodes and skin.

Neuroblastoma afflicts around 100 children a year in the UK but the cause of the disease is still not known.

Its symptoms can include:

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 stop the cancer from returning.

Laura and Tiago are now trying to raise 200,000 to help get their daughter into remission or to keep the cancer away if her treatment goes well.

The money is hoped to go towards further treatment, or if Beatriz gets the all-clear, a special vaccine in New York which helps keep the disease away.

Laura said: "After the stem cell transplant, the end was almost in sight but then she relapsed.

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"Were afraid that the cancer will get worse and worse and want to raise money to help get her into remission the ideal outcome is that the trial works and clears the disease.

"Luckily, compared to other two-year-olds, Beatriz has suffered less side effects with treatment and despite losing her curly hair shes powering through."

You can donate on Beatriz's JustGiving page here.

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Docs said our toddler was just clingy but we learned the truth on Google it was cancer - The Sun

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