My daughter complained of a tummy ache – weeks later docs said she had cancer

Millie Holmes, six, initially complained of a stomach ache, which her mum Gemma dismissed as a regular bug. However, when Millie started experiencing nosebleeds and passing blood in her urine, Gemma became alarmed.

Seeking medical advice, Gemma took Millie to the GP, who diagnosed her with a water infection and prescribed antibiotics. But months later, Millie’s condition worsened. She had little appetite, was losing weight, and her mother knew something was seriously wrong. Determined to find answers, the Manchester Evening News reports Gemma insisted on blood tests during their next visit to the GP.

During a routine check at Tameside General Hospital, doctors discovered a large lump in Millie’s stomach. The family was immediately transferred to Manchester Children’s Hospital, where they underwent further examinations for two weeks.

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The devastating news came when the test results confirmed Millie’s worst fears – she had an extremely rare and advanced form of cancer. Millie was diagnosed with clear cell sarcoma of the kidney, a type of kidney cancer that had already reached stage four, indicating that it had spread from its original location.

Gemma, overwhelmed with emotions, said: “I was in tears for days. I’m still in tears now. You don’t get time to process it; you just have to carry on.” Millie had been experiencing symptoms for over a year before receiving this diagnosis.

Clear cell sarcoma of the kidney is known to be more aggressive than other renal tumours, with a higher chance of recurrence. It tends to spread to other organs, including the bones, lungs, brain, and soft tissues of the body.

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The disease presents with atypical symptoms similar to other common illnesses, such as abdominal pain, making it challenging to diagnose. While the cause of clear cell sarcoma of the kidney is unknown, doctors believe that kidney cells may develop improperly during the early stages of development, leading to tumour formation later on.

In addition to her cancer diagnosis, Millie also has a rare genetic condition called chromosome 15q deletion. This condition results in missing copies of part of the genetic material that makes up one of the body’s 46 chromosomes. It causes speech delay, learning difficulties, and sensory needs. Medical professionals suspect that this condition may have contributed to the growth of Millie’s tumour.

Since her diagnosis, Millie has undergone five different types of chemotherapy and an eight-hour operation to remove her right kidney. While she is now recovering at home, she still faces another eight months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to shrink the remaining seven tumours.

Reflecting on the journey to diagnosis, Gemma said: “She started with a belly ache over 12 months ago. She was complaining of belly ache and had nosebleeds, which are signs of cancer, but at the time, we didn’t know that.”

Gemma recalled taking Millie to the doctors for the blood in her urine, and they initially believed it was a water infection. However, as Millie’s health deteriorated, with weight loss and fatigue, Gemma’s concerns grew, prompting her to push for a blood test.

The road ahead is challenging for Millie and her family. Gemma expressed the difficulty of the situation, saying: “It’s been a struggle; she has her own needs as it is already. It’s been a big change, and she’s had to overcome everything they’ve thrown at her. She’s still a happy child, she comes in here with a smile on her face. Every other day she’s been here, she’s happy, but she has her down days like everyone else.”

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