A mum has spoken of the horror of discovering that her eight-year-old daughter had stage four cancer – after discovering her tumour when she fell over in a playground.
Tragic Georgia Findlay passed away on July 8 from Wilms’ tumour – a rare form of kidney cancer.
Heartbroken mum Ria, 36, initially thought that the horse-loving youngster had grazed the left side of her stomach when she complained about an injury on February 18 last year.
However, the waitress, of Swadlincote, Derbys., was stunned when she looked closer and discovered that the muscle wall of the left side of the girl’s stomach had given way – and a huge tumour was poking out.
Ria – who lives with younger daughter Matilda, five – received the shock news of Georgia’s illness at Birmingham Children’s Hospital on February 22 last year.
The schoolgirl looked to be in remission following an operation and a course of chemotherapy, but on December 23 her mum was left in “agony” after being told that the tumour had reappeared and was terminal.
Ria took the decision to not disclose the severity of the illness to Georgia, in a bid to “let her be a normal child” for the final months of her life.
The youngster was just a week away from her “dream” trip to Disneyland Paris when she passed away.
Recalling the day the tumour was first spotted, she said: “Georgia was just an ordinary child, who loved to play out and have fun, and who loved her horse riding.
“She had only had her birthday fairly recently, and we were at a soft playground with some friends when I saw her trip.
“It seemed to be completely innocuous, but she started to complain that she had this pain in her stomach.
“You know what kids are like – they’re always picking up bumps and bruises, and I just assumed that this was another of those.
“I thought she had grazed her stomach or something like that. But when she lifted up her shirt and showed me, I could tell almost straightaway that something was wrong.
“There was a big bump poking out through her stomach, and it had gone all limp – as though there was no muscle there or anything.
“I had no inclination as to what it could have been, but I knew that she needed to go to the doctors.
“She wasn’t showing any signs of being ill, but it just didn’t look good. I was fearful right from the start.
“The doctors sent her for blood tests, and we had a nervous wait for the result to come through.
“I was trying to reassure myself that it was could be something like constipation, or perhaps appendicitis – something fairly minor.
“The next night, as I put her to bed she burst into tears and said that it hurt again. That was when I started to think it could be very serious.
“The day I got the results of the blood tests was a horrendous blur, it was probably the darkest moment of my life.
“I just remember being told that she had stage four cancer in her kidney and that it had already spread to her lung, and then completely fazing out.
“I thought before that it could be cancer, but I didn’t realise it was so advanced. Had we not found it when we did, it would have been terminal straight from the first diagnosis.
“I had never heard of Wilms’ tumour before they gave me the diagnosis, so as you can imagine it was an awful lot to take in.”
The youngster started chemotherapy on March 4, and by April 27 last year had had an operation to remove the kidney, as well as receiving treatment for a collapsed lung.
On June 8 of the same year, she had an operation to remove four tumours on her lung, and continued to respond well to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
However, in December a scan showed that the cancer had reoccured in the spot where the kidney once was, and on December 23 doctors told Ria that her daughter’s condition was terminal.
She said: “Up until that stage it had appeared that she was getting better, but then, just like that, we were given the news that she wouldn’t pull through.
“I’m always sceptical, but I was really starting to believe that she was going to get well again and overcome it.
“Suddenly, all of that was taken away. It was agony. The cancer had reappeared on her kidney, and a blood clot had formed above her heart.
“Of course Georgia was aware that she had cancer and that she was poorly, but I made a conscious decision not to tell her quite how bad it was.
“What would the point of that been?
“She was so young, and I wanted her to be a child, and spend her life as comfortably and as happily as she could.
“That’s what any mother would want, I believe.
“That’s why, towards the end, we stopped giving her the medicines that were making her feel poorly.
“I don’t think we ever really talked about the potential of her dying. From time to time she would worry about things, but she handled the whole situation in such an adult way.
“That’s what made it so much easier for me.
“Georgia was the most amazing child. She had this wonderful zest for life, and an insatiable appetite to be the centre of attention.
“She lived every day to the maximum, even before her treatment.
“She was absolutely obsessed with her horses. One of the doctors told her that she shouldn’t be riding them while she was ill, and she told him where to go.
“Throughout the treatment she was more tired than usual, but other than that she was just her usual self.
“She was determined to be a normal child, and had an 80 per cent attendance record at school.
“It was always a question of quality of life over quantity, and as it came up to summer it was clear that she didn’t have long left.
“I had arranged a trip to go to Disneyland Paris for the three of us, which would have been her dream trip.
“Although she loved her horses and was very outdoorsy, she was a bit of a Disney princess as well.
“But unfortunately she died a week before we were due to fly out, which was heartbreaking.
“We kept her at home for as long as possibly could, but it was clear the day before she died that she needed to be in Birmingham Children’s Hospital to pass away as comfortably as possible.
“I don’t think she suffered in the end. She slipped away peacefully, surrounded by her family.
“Although it was absolutely heartbreaking knowing that she was going to pass away, I feel so lucky to have been able to have those last few months with her.
“They’re moments that I will cherish for the rest of my life, because she really was a wonderful little girl.
“One of the tragedies from my perspective is that Wilms’ tumour isn’t more well known.
“One of the worst elements is that it doesn’t have many symptoms until it’s quite far developed – so Georgia was, on the face of things, perfectly healthy until we found the tumour.”