A mother has told how her world turned upside down when her little girl’s tummy ache turned out to be an orange-size tumour.
Perthshire youngster Leva Stewart went to her local GP clutching her swollen belly “like a pregnant woman”.
After an anxious week-long wait for test results, the family was told the toddler had a rare type of cancer which impacts on particular types of muscle cells.
The disease, rhabdomyosarcoma, affects around 60 children in the UK each year.
Brave Leva, who turns three on Friday, is now battling back to health, with just one more cycle of radiotherapy to go and a recent scan revealing no evidence of cancer left in her body.
There was more good news for the inspirational Blackford youngster as she has been picked to launch a major awards scheme for Cancer Research UK in Scotland.
Leva received a CRUK Kids and Teens Star Award for demonstrating remarkable courage during her gruelling eight-month battle.
Parents Roxeanne Hausrath and Adam Stewart, both 30, said they are immensely proud of her.
“Leva is our star, remaining incredibly bright, bubbly, confident and caring throughout everything,” Roxeanne said.
“Our lives changed overnight when Leva was diagnosed with cancer and we had no control over that.”
She said: “Leva’s third birthday will be special. It will be a chance to get everyone together who has supported us through the most traumatic year of our lives and say thank you.”
Dental nurse Roxeanne said the first major shock came on April 26, when an scan at Ninewells showed what medics suspected was a tumour in Leva’s abdomen.
“We’d taken Leva to the doctor as her tummy has swollen up and was hurting her,” she said. “She’d even started holding her tummy to support it like a pregnant woman would do when she went to pick something up.
“I’d noticed the veins in her tummy were really extended and blue, which raised alarm bells for me too.”
Leva was sent to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh for further tests and on May 8 the family were told there a 10cm tumour was pushing against a kidney.
After the first round of chemotherapy, a scan revealed the tumour had grown by another 6cm and emergency surgery was required.
On June 27, Leva underwent a seven-hour operation, which saw 99% of the tumour removed.
“Leva had been a strong wee lady all through the surgery,” said Roxeanne.
“The tumour had been attached to her bladder, so they’d had to take a small part of her bladder away but mended it well. They’d only been able to remove a small part which was attached to her bowel. It was incredible for us to hear that they’d got so much of the tumour out.”
Leva was out of intensive care within 48 hours. “Very soon she was sitting up in bed, laughing and playing. She healed brilliantly,” said her mum.
She faces just four more weeks of radiotherapy at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh and can then look forward to being a flower girl at her parent’s wedding in 2019. Adam proposed to Roxeanne on the eve of Leva’s life-saving surgery.
“We tried to turn what felt like the worst day of our lives in to a positive,” said Roxeanne.
“Caring for a seriously ill child makes or breaks you as a couple. Adam has been my rock through the most stressful, traumatic time of my life and I try to stay positive to get him through.
“Sadly, every time we go back to the hospital we meet a new family with a child who has just been diagnosed with cancer and has so much of this to come. We’re no experts but are keen to do everything we can to support other families going through it.”
Leva will star at awards ceremony
The Cancer Research UK Kids and Teens Awards, which runs in partnership with fashion retailer TK Maxx, was established to celebrate the strength shown by young people who have been affected by cancer.
Families and friends of young cancer patients and survivors from across Scotland are now being urged to nominate youngsters for special recognition in the run-up to Christmas at cruk.org/kidsandteens
Since 2004, TK Maxx has raised more than £32 million for Cancer Research’s work through stock and cash donations. Of this, more than £28 million is supporting pioneering research into children’s cancers specifically, and £4 million supporting general cancer research.
CRUK Kids and Teens in Scotland spokeswoman Lisa Adams said: “The awards in partnership with TK Maxx recognises young people who have survived or are currently being treated for cancer.
“Our mission is to fund research to find new, better and kinder treatment for children and young people diagnosed with cancer in Scotland, and across the UK.
“We want to bring forward the day when no young person dies of the disease, and ensure that those who survive do so with a good quality of life.”
She added: “We are calling on people across Scotland to nominate inspirational youngsters for this year’s Star Awards so that we can recognise their incredible courage.”
Around 130 children in Scotland are diagnosed with cancer every year. During the last 40 years, more than 15,000 more children have beaten cancer than would have done if survival had remained the sames in the 1970s.
More than eight-in-10 of children diagnosed with cancer in the UK now survive for at least five years, compared to four-in-10 forty years ago.