A Sydney mother has opened up about her daughter’s cancer battle and the life changing moment she had to decide to stop the toddler’s treatment.
Grace Bridges has spent almost half of her life in hospital. The two-year-old was diagnosed with metastatic hepatoblastoma – a rare liver cancer – in January last year.
In just two years she has had five surgeries and 70 doses of chemotherapy. Sadly for Grace and her family, the chemotherapy has failed to kill the cancer.
“We had a meeting with the oncologist and he told us there was still cancer in her body, chemotherapy was just keeping it at bay,” her mum Emma Bane told 7NEWS.com.au.
“That’s when we made a really difficult decision to let the cancer grow.”
Because of the type of cancer Grace has, there is no telling where it could be growing in her body.
“It could be anywhere,” Bane said. “That’s why we need to find it, it could be anywhere.”
“We’re just sitting and waiting, she gets blood tests every three weeks, which has markers that let us know when her cancer is advancing.
“We have no idea what tomorrow is going to bring.”
It could take at least six months for the tumour to grow large enough to be identified. Grace will then have to endure another surgery to remove it.
Once that’s done the family will again have to wait and hope it does not return.
Grace was diagnosed in January 2020 after the happy, cheeky infant began having a low-grade fever and was getting really irritable.
“She stopped eating as much as she was eating,” Bane said.
“She started getting little dents in her fingernails and we didn’t know what that was either.
“We brought her to the doctor a few times and then thought because she was only 11 months old when we started noticing things, I thought maybe she’s just teething or she’s coming into her own because she’s getting older and she knows what she wants.
“(The doctors) weren’t alarmed or suspicious about anything either.”
“Then I was changing her nappy and I noticed three pea-sized lumps in her groin so we took her up to the doctor straight away for an ultrasound,” the mum said.
But days later Grace was rushed to hospital after taking a turn for the worse.
Bane and husband Adam Bridges, Grace’s father, were told on multiple occasions to prepare for the worst.
“It was such a shock because we didn’t know how sick she was, but she pulled through because she’s just an amazing little fighter.
“It’s really hard watching her suffer.”
Always a silver-lining
While they wait for the cancer to grow the family has been making the most of their freedom away from hospitals.
“Been a really difficult year for her,” Bane said.
“It’s been nice not to go to the hospital every day. She’s been having fun painting and going to the zoo.”
Because of Grace’s treatment, the family has been limited by what they can do together.
While she was undergoing chemotherapy her immune system was compromised, meaning the slightest infection could be fatal.
“Now she’s not been on chemo, her immune system is repairing itself.”
Bane said while they wait for the cancer to grow, they have been enjoying time together as a family.
“We always try and look at the positive side of things. When Grace was first diagnosed we didn’t know if she would be here in 24 hours.”
Despite the grim diagnosis, Grace has still been in high spirits, Bane said.
“She just wakes up smiling,” Bane said.
As Grace has been bedridden for almost a year, her development has been delayed.
The toddler is only no able to stand. Her parents are excitedly awaiting her first steps.
The money will go towards Grace’s rehab and may have to go towards any future chemotherapy.