A mum has told how her four-year-old was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer after going to the doctors - with a stomach ache.
Enya Gooding, 23, took daughter Cayla Jones to the doctors last year after she complained of a sore tummy for a few nights in a row.
Medics initially thought it was a urinary infection and gave her antibiotics - but Cayla still felt poorly and further appointments and tests revealed she had neuroblastoma.
The brave little girl went through eight rounds of chemotherapy in just 70 days, as well as surgery to remove the tumour, high-dose BuMel chemo and radiotherapy.
The family from Collumpton, Devon, is now desperately fundraising for a vaccine treatment in the USA to prevent relapse.
Enya said: “Cayla was fine in the daytime but when it was time to go to bed she’d say she had a sore tummy.
“I thought she was just trying to get away with staying up later at first.
“But we wanted to get it checked out just in case, so I booked in for an appointment at our local GP.
“The GP didn’t seem to think there was anything to worry about and said it may be a urine infection so he gave us a round of antibiotics and that was that.”
But after the week-long course of antibiotics was over in July last year, Cayla was still feeling poorly.
Enya said: “I explained the antibiotics hadn’t worked and we wondered what else it could be that was causing her stomach issues.
“There had been a lot of change in Cayla’s life and I worried that that was causing her stress.
“I’d just had my second baby, Finnley, earlier in the year and Cayla was preparing to start big school in September.
“He did a full check of her and when he got to her stomach said he could feel a mass and called another doctor for a second opinion.
“They were throwing around words like ‘hernia’ and ‘appendix’, but I still wasn’t too concerned - it didn’t sound like it would be anything too sinister.
“But then I caught sight of their faces - they both had a strange look about them and that was when I started to worry.”
They gave Enya a letter to take to A&E that meant they wouldn’t need to wait, and Cayla was admitted to Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital that day.
She underwent blood and urine tests and an ultrasound and eventually an oncologist called Enya and partner Brad Jones, 25, into a private room.
Enya said: “My heart sank. I heard them say they’d found a tumour and Brad and I both just broke down, we couldn’t speak.
“I couldn’t even bring myself to ask any questions, I just tried to pull myself together and put a brave face on for Cayla so as not to scare her.”
And that attitude is something she’s clung to for the whole ordeal, insisting on staying strong for Cayla’s sake.
She explained: “I don’t know if there is a right way to act in that situation, we just had to do what was right for us and in that moment I knew she needed me to be calm.”
The family were transferred to Bristol Children’s Hospital a few days later for further scans and a biopsy of the tumour.
Enya’s worst nightmare came true when the results were worse than expected - Cayla was officially diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma.
Her mum said: “ She had an MRI and NIBG scan to show where the disease was and if it had travelled, and we saw that it had gone all the way up her diaphragm and into the lymph nodes in her neck.
“We were really lucky that it wasn’t in her bones - which is usually the case with stage four - so that meant we didn’t have to wait to clear out her bones before starting treatment.”
Cayla started chemotherapy on 19 July, having eight rounds in 70 days.
By the fourth round the tumours in her neck had disappeared completely and the main tumour in her stomach had shrunk.
Enya said: “At the end of the 70 days her white blood cell count had flatlined and she had to be in isolation for three weeks because her immune system was so weak.
“It was really tough because we had the baby too, so trying to juggle everything was never easy, but we got through it.”
An MRI showed two thirds of the stomach tumour had disappeared, and she had an eight-hour surgery to remove as much as possible, around 80% Brave Cayla then had to have a stem cell harvest - a procedure to obtain stem cells for use in cancer treatment.
Enya said: “She was in hospital in Bristol for two days and in the first day alone they got 5 million cells, which was amazing.
“When she got home from that she was so well - her appetite was better than before she was ill! It was lovely to see her like it.”
Cayla went through a further week of high dose Bumel chemotherapy - four times a day for six days, and then a final dose on the seventh day.
Little Cayla was discharged on December 17 and will have scans later this month to see if she’s in remission, before a final round of radiotherapy.
Now her parents are fundraising to send her to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, which offers a vaccine which can lower the chances of cancer coming back.
So far they have raised more than £25,000 of their £200,000 target with the help of the Bradley Lowery Foundation.
Six-year-old Bradley tragically lost his fight with neuroblastoma last year, and his family are now helping other people like Cayla to fundraise for treatment not available on the NHS.
Enya said: “When we first got the diagnosis, like everyone else, I did the worst thing possible and went online.
“Aside from all the awful facts and statistics, I found information on the Center and the success rate was 85%.
“The odds of the cancer coming back in the first six months are 50/50 so the odds aren’t great so we started an online fundraiser soon after with the help of the Bradley Lowery Foundation.
“They have been such a huge help directing us with our fundraising, and the team there can completely relate to what we’re going through as they’ve been through the same process.
“All we want is to give our daughter the best chance at living a long, healthy life just like any other parent.”
To donate, visit: www.justgiving.com/campaign/caylasfight