Clumsiness a brain tumour sign for child, reveal parents keen to keep others vigilant
A family has revealed how their little girl's headaches and clumsiness turned out to be signs of a brain tumour, with her parents actions in rushing her to A&E credited for saving her life.
Back in 2017, Lacey-Mae Spong, then four, had been complaining of intense headaches, was frequently bumping into things and vomiting, but trips to the optician and doctors hadn't revealed any serious concerns.
It was only when their daughter started screaming with pain, that her parents, dad, Rob Spong, 45, and mum, Donna McClelland, 41, from Barry, Wales, decided to take her straight to hospital.
Tests revealed she had a brain tumour - known as pilocytic astrocytoma - and she underwent urgent surgery to relieve the pressure caused by a fluid build up in her skull.
Although the family were told Lacey-Mae might never regain her sight or walk freely by herself, she recovered in time to be able to join reception class that year, having seen her sight in one eye return and improved mobility with the help of physiotherapy from the hospital.
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Now the family are sharing their daughter's story to encourage other parents to stay vigilant and look out for symptoms in their children.
"As a parent you know if there is something wrong with your child," Spong, a full-time carer explains. "But I half expected them to dismiss me as an overprotective dad.
"But they [the doctors in A&E] said that had I not brought her in when I did, she would not have survived the next day."
Recalling his daughter's diagnosis, Spong describes it as being a "hard" and "a blur".
“We didn’t expect it at all," he says.
“That first moment is like you’ve been hit by a freight train - we didn’t expect anything that serious."
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But things moved pretty quickly after the family were given the news of their daughter's brain tumour.
“It was a whirlwind," Spong continues. "We took her in and within a couple of hours she was on an operating table."
While the surgery, to remove the mass in her brain, no doubt saved her life it didn't come without complications, having caused a stroke which impacted the left side of Lacye-Mae's body and leaving her unable to see.
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She spent 17 weeks recovering in hospital and gradually began to regain strength and part of the vision in one eye.
Over the past six years, Lacey-Mae, now 10, has undergone three courses of chemotherapy and recently started a fourth round, which she is due to finish in May 2023.
Her mum agrees the experience has been overwhelming.
“We had to block out a lot of it," she explains.
"We have had to pull ourselves together for her sake, because us being a mess wasn’t going to help.”
But the family say Lacey-Mae’s attitude has helped them cope with the impact her illness has had on their lives.
“If she wasn’t as determined as she is I don’t think me and her mum would have survived," Spong adds.
“She never sits and wallows and she's helped us through a lot.”
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Despite their daughter's positivity, the couple do worry about the impact their daughter's condition has had on her childhood, as well as the ongoing uncertainty of her future.
“In many ways she hasn’t had a normal childhood, because she’s missed out on an awful lot, especially at the start," her mum explains.
“We just try and concentrate on each day and try to deal with any news we receive as best we can."
Spong describes his daughter's ongoing illness as a "waiting game".
"Waiting for the results, then waiting to see if it comes back," he explains.
“There is always that chance it could go wrong. It’s a ticking time bomb, as we just don’t know if she will reach full adulthood.
“It is what it is - we wouldn’t help her by mulling over it, so we try to stay positive for her.”
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And in the mean time Lacey-Mae is focussing on making friends and doing well at school.
“Lacey really enjoys school, and even when she feels poorly, she loves learning," her dad says.
“The school has been really great - they’ve supported her in learning braille and managing her mobility, with lots of support in other departments.
“She loves learning Welsh which she practises with all the Welsh speakers at the hospital in Cardiff.”
Additional reporting SWNS.