Ava's Story - iMRI Scanner Appeal

Ava was just two years old when she was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour and treated at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. Her mum Charlene tells her story…

I remember Ava telling me she felt dizzy and the room was spinning. A few days later she was sick, lost her sense of balance and her head started tilting to one side – I knew then something wasn’t right.

We went straight to A&E and they found a mass on Ava’s brain. She was taken to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital for an MRI scan. It showed the mass was a tumour and she had a 20-30% chance of surviving five or more years. Nothing prepares you for getting news like that. We were heartbroken.

Five days later, Ava went into surgery to have the tumour removed. The operation took around 10 hours and revealed the tumour was cancerous. Ava stayed in hospital for most of the next eight months receiving a total of five cycles of chemotherapy, followed by high dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.  

During that time Ava had another MRI scan that showed another small mass in her brain. The doctors weren’t sure if it was left behind during the previous surgery or if it was a new tumour. Ava was rushed into emergency surgery. During this second operation, the surgeon wanted to do an MRI scan mid-way through to check he’d removed the entire tumour. To do this he had to close up the wound and wheel Ava out of theatre for an MRI scan in a different part of the hospital while she was still under general anaesthetic and ventilated.  

The MRI scan showed there was still a small bit of tumour left, so Ava was taken back to theatre to try and remove the last bit.  An MRI scan a few days later showed the tumour was now all gone. It was amazing news.

Ava remained tumour free for two years. But then one day, shortly after she started reception, I noticed Ava was tilting her head to the side again. I just knew the tumour was back. We rushed her to A&E again where they confirmed what I’d already feared.

Once again Ava had surgery, and once again, the doctors had to close her up mid-way through the surgery for an MRI scan to check all the tumour had been removed. This scan revealed there was still a last bit of tumour remaining – a sliver of white on the scan. Ava was immediately taken back to surgery to try and remove this piece.  However, an MRI scan the following day showed it hadn’t all been removed.  The surgeon said he’d removed everything he could see, so we agreed to take Ava to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to use the specialist iMRI equipment there that could better pinpoint the remaining bit of tumour.

It was difficult having Ava so far away from home, especially as she had a little brother at home who needed caring for too. But this time the surgery took half the time and there was no need to move her mid-way through for an MRI scan.  Ava recovered much quicker and was able to come home a week later, after a final MRI scan showed all the tumour had been removed.

This is why I backed the charity’s iMRI Appeal  – so children won’t have to travel to get this type of specialist care. And children like Ava can have scans during surgery, rather than moving to a different part of the hospital.

Since Ava’s last operation, another MRI scan has shown the tumour has returned again.  This time it is so small, we hope it will continue to shrink so Ava won’t need any further treatment.

Ava is seven now and back at school full time. She’s a happy, cheerful little girl who always has a smile on her face. But she does still feel the effects of the treatment. She gets tired very easily and she struggles to remember things so her learning at school isn’t the same as her friends. The craniospinal radiotherapy has also had an effect on her spine so she’s taking growth hormones to help her grow.

Find out more and donate to the iMRI Scanner Appeal.