A devastated mother correctly diagnosed her two-year-old daughter’s rare liver cancer six months before doctors who told her it was just constipation.
Louise Millward, 34, from Inkberrow, Worcestershire, noticed Grace had lost her appetite and was more tired than normal in May last year.
The mum-of-two took the little girl to their GP who referred her to Worcestershire Royal Hospital, where doctors suspected she had constipation or appendicitis.
She was treated at Birmingham Children’s Hospital before being sent home – but Grace’s health continued to deteriorate, and mum Louise noticed she was losing her balance and being sick.
In October last year – five months after doctors gave her the all clear – Louise noticed Grace’s stomach was swollen and rushed her back to hospital.
Further tests revealed her liver was inflamed, and she was sadly diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a rare cancer which affects just one in one million children.
Louise Millward, 34, from Inkberrow, Worcestershire, correctly diagnosed daughter Grace, two, pictured, with a rare liver cancer by Googling her symptoms (pictured receiving treatment at Birmingham Children’s Waterfall House)
Grace before the diagnosis of her liver cancer. In May last year, Grace’s mother Louise noticed the toddler had lost her appetite and was more tired than normal
Louise, blasted the doctors saying her little girl’s cancer went untreated for six months.
She said: ‘The doctors reassured us that it was constipation and we just thought that it was all sorted.
‘Because what she has in children is so rare, to some degree I am angry it was missed.
‘The size of the tumour when she was diagnosed was 14cm in length.
‘For a 23-month-old child to have a 14cm length in her liver is huge – that is why it was protruding out of her stomach.
‘Had it have been picked up properly in May, then maybe it wouldn’t have been as big and could have been resolved on a slightly different avenue.’
Louise Millward, 34, pictured with her two-year-old Grace, who was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a rare liver cancer, after scans discovered a 14cm tumor
Don, 34, Grace’s father, an agriculture contractor, and partner Louise were worried doctors had misdiagnosed their daughter, who said she was most likely constipated or suffering with appendicitis
Louise and partner Don, 34, an agriculture contractor, became concerned doctors had misdiagnosed their daughter after she kept falling over.
She said: ‘After we were sent home we had incidents of her falling over, vomiting, sickness, lack of interest.
‘These incidents were happening from May until October. She was really poorly for all that time.
‘We thought it may be a virus or something.
‘Then one night while I was giving her a bath I then noticed she had a vein mapping across her stomach, I had never seen this before.
Grace receiving treatment for her liver cancer. The heart-breaking news came six months after symptoms initially began and her health continued to deteriorate
Grace had incidents of her falling over, vomiting, sickness, lack of interest after doctors sent her home from hospital treated for constipation. Pictured before treatment
Grace continuing her stay at Birmingham Children’s Waterfall House. On 25 October 2020, Louise took Grace to hospital for further tests and they were referred to Worcestershire Royal Hospital pending an investigation
Grace’s liver was extremely enlarged and was protruding out of her chest after investigations at Worcestershire Royal Hospital (pictured at Birmingham Children’s Waterfall House)
‘Her veins and arteries had to come to surface because of the pressure.’
On 25 October 2020, Louise took Grace to hospital for further tests and they were referred to Worcestershire Royal Hospital pending an investigation.
Louise said: ‘The doctors had told me that her liver was extremely enlarged and that was what I could protruding out of her chest.
‘The vein mapping was the pressure of her tumour on the arteries. We were then admitted for investigations.
‘I Googled Grace’s symptoms and it suggested it was probably cancer.
‘The doctors couldn’t give a diagnosis, they were still doing investigations and said probable hepatoblastoma.
Grace, before her diagnosis. The toddler is now undergoing aggressive chemotherapy and radiotherapy in a bid to shrink the tumour
Grace, pictured spending Christmas at home after having a break from the aggressive chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment
‘It was a tumour but they couldn’t tell me what and if it had spread. Everything after that happened so quickly.
‘They then carried out CAT scan, MRIs and biopsies.’
One November 2 last year her parents, who also have son Jack, 13, were dealt the devastating news that she had cancer.
Louise said: ‘We were devastated but not surprised.
‘Her right lung had collapsed; she had a bleed in her liver and her haemoglobin levels had dropped right down.’
Grace is now undergoing aggressive chemotherapy and radiotherapy in a bid to shrink the tumour.
One November 2 last year, Grace’s parents, who also have son Jack, 13, were dealt the devastating news that she had cancer (pictured in hospital during treatment)
Grace has been signed up to a clinical trial which looks at the toxicity levels of chemotherapy drugs to treat her rare liver cancer. Pictured receiving treatment
WHAT IS HEPATOBLASTOMA?
- Hepatoblastoma is a very rare cancer – about 10 to 15 children develop hepatoblastoma in the UK each year
- Average age of diagnosis is one, and most cases occur before two years of age
- The tumor starts in the liver
- Babies born at a very low birth weight also seem to be at higher risk
- Symptoms can include: A lump in the belly, pain in the abdomen, a swollen abdomen, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, yellow color to the skin or whites of the eyes, fever, and more
- Depending on the severity, it can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, live transplant, or radiation therapy
- Source: Stanford Children’s Hospital and The Royal Marsden
Louise added: ‘We signed up to a clinical trial which looks at the toxicity levels of the chemotherapy drugs to treat this cancer.
‘Grace also the characteristics of a tumour of a hepatocellular carcinoma – which is a mass on the outside of her liver, but it’s not the really bad malignant tumour.
‘At the end of December, we had a 13 per cent reduction in tumour size. The surgeons will now decide what happens next.
‘As for the future, we don’t know, but the chemotherapy is shrinking the tumour.
‘Grace’s cure is having it removed by a resection or transplant. The surgeons have told us she can survive with a third of her liver.’
After setting up a GoFundme Page with a £750 target, the family have received £5,815 in donations from well-wishers.
The family plan to use the donations to give Grace a bedroom makeover, a trip to the zoo and a family holiday.