Maddie was only three and a half years old when diagnosed with neuroblastoma – a vicious cancer that develops from nerve tissues.
Poor little Maddie had to survive 22 blood transfusions, 11 surgeries, 55 platelet transfers and 27 different hospital stays.
Maddie was a bright, cheerful toddler. Her parents were shocked when aged two and a half, she began having trouble with what appeared to be constipation. She’d roll about on the floor, holding her belly, suffering terrible pains.
Over and over, her parents Fran and Andrew took her to the doctor, where, once the pain subsided she was sent home with Panadol. This went on for months. She had blood tests, urine tests, x-rays, all kinds of tests, but nothing showed up.
Finally, a doctor noticed something in one of the tests and ordered an ultrasound. The answer was a neuroblastoma, a devastating cancer that develops from nerve tissue. Maddie had a 12.5cm tumour in her belly and it was already at Stage 4 – which meant it was very advanced and had spread to other areas.
Within days, Maddie had a biopsy and began a heavy regime of chemotherapy which lasted for months. She had major tumours removed from her kidneys, but unfortunately her right kidney and right adrenal gland could not be saved. Two lots of stem cells were extracted from her bone marrow, and she later had two bone marrow transplants.
Maddie spent weeks in and out of intensive care, and was close to death several times. Her organs shut down, her lungs filled with fluid and her remaining kidney stopped functioning and she had to be put on a kidney bypass.
Incredibly brave, Maddie is a survivor but continues to struggle with the effects of her treatment. She suffers from osteoporosis. She has had cochlear implant surgery as her hearing was damaged by her medication. Her spine was fused by her radiotherapy, so her torso will no longer grow and her hair hasn’t grown back properly. She struggles with how she looks and is now seeing a psychologist. Such devastating side effects are the reality for many cancer survivors.