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Andrea Padayachee Story

Andrea was 9 years old and in gr 4 when she first got sick in July 2014.

It all started with a nosebleed from her right nostril at school. She was taken to a gp who plugged her nose. Thereafter we took her to an ENT who assessed her and again plugged her nose. The next morning the left nostril started to bleed so we rushed her to hospital; she was examined, blood tests were done and everything came back normal and we were asked to come back in a week for a check up. We took her back in a week and again she was given the all clear.

Soon after this she began to complain of severe headaches and constant neck pain. We took her to 2 different gps and she was treated with antibiotics. By the beginning of September 2014 she was not getting better so the gp told us to take her back to the ENT. He ordered a CT scan which showed a growth in her nasal cavity which he said he could operate and remove. A few days later he called us into hospital to do a MRI to determine the extent of the tumor. He was still convinced that he could operate and remove it; but after consulting with other colleages he told us he needed to perform a biopsy.

Brooklyn Rex

A few days later he called us in and gave us the devasting news that Andrea had a very rare cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma. He referred us to the Durban Oncology Centre the very next day where it was explained to us that Andrea would need Chemotherapy and radiation because her tumor is inoperable because it is in a very sensitive area.

We were told that. she needed to see an paediatric oncologist. Instead of hospitalising her immediately and starting her on some treatment the doctor at Durban Oncology was waiting for paperwork to be approved for the treatment plan.

While at home we noticed Andrea could not focus and her pains were becoming worse. We called them back and got a prescription for morphine patches. This relieved her pain but she became sleepy all the time. We noticed her eye drooping and called them back and was told it is the effect of the patch. A week later we got a call for an appointment with the paediatric oncologist who was upset to see Andrea in such a condition and yet she was not hospitalized.

At this time she examined Andrea and told us that Andrea had lost her vision in the eye that was drooping. She explained everything in detail to us regarding Andrea's condition and the severity of it. This is when reality struck and we were in shock. She immediately admitted Andrea into Capital hospital and began testing and treatment. Andrea was given a 20 percent chance of survival!

An ophthalmologist was called in to assess her eyes and at that point he said her eyes seemed fine but after seeing the MRI told us that the tumor was pushing onto the optic nerves and therefore was effecting her eyesight. Andrea continued to have aggressive chemotherapy over the following months. Although we saw improvement in her condition. Our child was constantly in hospital and was always having infections even though we had her in total isolation. Andrea was becoming so sad and depressed because she was not allowed visitors and couldn't go anywhere, and the fact that she could barely see or read anything made her very upset.

In March 2015 our doctor decided that Andrea needed to start her radiation. We were sent back to Durban oncology and her 28 day cycle to her head and nasal cavity started. The side effects of radiation were worse than chemo. Her mouth was so sore that she had to be hospitalised and the radiation had to be stopped until she was ok. The radiation also took away the little sight that she had. After radiation she had too many sinus infections and had to be taking into theatre twice for a sinus drainage. Andrea had a very compromised immune system and therefore she could not attend school so a braille tutor came home twice weekly to assist her.

She is coping well with braille and enjoying it, but Andrea still yearns for her eyesight to return. As a result of Andrea needing constant care we had to make the decision to become a single income home so that 1 parent will be home to care for Andrea and take her for her appointments. This has put a lot of financial strain on us with many unpaid medical bills.

Andrea finished her chemo in December 2015 and now only goes in for check ups to her oncologist, ENT and opthamologist. We contacted Open Air School which is the only school in Durban which caters for visually impaired learners in January 2016 but were told that they were full and will consider admitting her later in the year. We waited patiently but did not receive any feedback so we called them back and were told that she will be seen on 18 October 2016 for an assessment. We took her in and were relieved when we were told that she will be admitted into the school for 2017.

Andrea has had a few infections this year but we are thankful that it was nothing major. Andrea's next scan is scheduled for January 2017, we pray that this scan will be clear.

As parents we are devasted because our intelligent, beautiful child has been robbed of so many things.