Putting cancer to the sword

For Canning Vale couple Wayne and Eleisha Brooks, the discovery that their five-year-old daughter Sophie had spine and brain cancer shook them to the core.

�The feeling is one of disbelief,� Mr Brooks said. �You can�t fathom it; that something like that would ever happen to you.

�One minute you have a healthy child and to be told she has brain cancer, it just knocks you over.�

The couple are now looking to raise awareness of brain cancer in children and Sophie is doing her bit thanks to a little help from her classmates at Burrendah Primary School.

Friday, June 12 is Pirate Day, which encourages people to wear an eye patch to raise awareness and funds for childhood brain cancer.

�This disease is the biggest killer of kids in Australia, something I was not aware of when Sophie was diagnosed,� Mr Brooks said.

The couple first noticed something was wrong with their daughter last August.

�We realised Sophie wasn�t well; when she went to bed she had a lot of pain in her abdomen,� Mr Brooks said.

�This went on for a long time and the doctors and specialists told us she had constipation.

�We went through the process of putting her on medication to clear her out and had X-rays taken to see if she was unblocked.

�It was then the doctors noticed she had scoliosis, curvature of the spine; they didn�t think there was anything related between the two.�

The couple went back and forth with Sophie to hospital, visiting specialists who advised she would need a start wearing a back brace.

�This went on for three months and we thought we were on the right track as it was perhaps the spine pressing on her nerves, but Sophie�s pain came back and it was much worse,� Mr Brooks said.

Mr Brooks and his wife went back to hospital another four or five times to be told that Sophie still had constipation but this time the couple disagreed.

�When we were in hospital for the fifth time, we told them we are not leaving until we can get some sort of a scan done or Sophie sees another specialist because we said it can�t be her bowel,� Mr Brooks said.

The couple pleaded with the hospital and finally Sophie was able to have an MRI scan, which revealed something alarming.

�The MRI took two hours and then about nine doctors came into the waiting room and said they needed to have a chat,� Mr Brooks said. �Then they gave us the devastating news that Sophie has a massive tumour about the size of a 20 cent coin in her spine and they think it has spread into her brain.�

A Princess Margaret Hospital spokesperson said there were a range of complex medical issues that required high level diagnostic investigations like MRI scanning.

�MRI scanning is time-consuming, expensive and often requires a general anaesthetic due to it being distressing for young children,� the spokesperson said.

�Therefore its use needs to be carefully managed by senior clinical staff and there are often wait times for cases that are assessed to be not urgent.�

Further testing revealed the cancer was a less aggressive form and was finally brought under control through surgery and chemotherapy.

�They managed to remove 90 per cent of the tumour from Sophie�s spine but could not operate on the ones in her brain, so they started chemotherapy, which helped shrink the tumours in her brain,� Mr Brooks said.

�Sheis doing really well now but doesn�t understand much about what went on.�

For more information, visit www.piratedayfriday.com.