Mum shares tragic back to school photo to show reality of childhood cancer

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  • A mum of two from Norfolk has painfully visualised the devastation that many parents face when their children pass away due to cancer, which is especially difficult this time of year as children all over the world go back to school.

    Emily Apicella was diagnosed with Wilms’ tumour, a type of kidney cancer, when she was five. Currently, around 70 children a year develop a Wilms’ tumour in the UK.

    Mum Julie posted a split photo, showing her daughter on her first day of school alongside an empty photo.

    ‘School photo time – obviously someone very special missing – my daughter Emily,’ Julie wrote.

    ‘Imagine if your school photo this year is the last you will ever be able to take and will just be a memory to remember.’

    After being diagnosed, Emily had emergency surgery to try and remove her kidney. After chemotherapy and radiotherapy, eight months later there was no sign of the disease according to scans. However, just six months later, the cancer had returned to where her kidney had once been.

    More chemotherapy, a stem cell harvest, and a transplant later, Emily was once again cancer-free. But yet again, the cancer returned and she took part in a drugs trial.

    ‘In July to August 2015 we came off trial as it wasn’t working and came home to make memories of our time left,’ wrote Julie. ‘There were no treatments left to try.

    ‘Emily passed away at home on December 2015 aged eight years old after fighting cancer for three years.’

    Julie’s post has been shared over 8,500 times, which Julie is thrilled about as more and more people are gaining awareness of cancer in children.

    In the post, she asked people to change their profile pictures to show a gold ribbon to raise even more awareness – the gold ribbon is the international symbol of childhood cancer.

    Friends, family and strangers commented on the post, offering their support and sharing how emotional it made them.

    ‘Oh Julie – great evocative post but, so sad. Everyone should go gold for your gorgeous girl,’ wrote one user.

    ‘Read this and felt it to my stomach. You are so strong jules. Heartbreaking reality you have to live with. Sending love,’ wrote another.

    ‘I am very happy that my post is getting the message out about childhood cancer awareness and hope to see lots of gold ribbons in response,’ Julie told The Huffington Post UK.

    Julie is determined to make more people aware, as she says ‘funding for research is painfully small.’ She spoke out about her concerns that cancer treatments aimed for adults may be too harsh for children’s ‘small bodies.’

    ‘My daughter ran out of options and we as a family had to watch as her cancer took over her body with nothing to try to cure her and that is tragic,’ she said.

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    ‘I would like the gold ribbon of childhood cancer to be as recognised as the pink ribbon for breast cancer, and for the symptoms for cancer to be as recognised as the meningitis rash glass test by parents and doctors.

    ‘A parent shouldn’t bury their child, that isn’t the circle of life, and if awareness can change that for one person then it is worthwhile.

    ‘The saying: “it won’t happen to my child, they are healthy”, is what every oncology parent said to themselves before diagnosis.’

    The Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group says that a set list of symptoms of childhood cancer is difficult, as so many different types of cancer can affect kids. However, common symptoms can include:

    • Persistently feeling very tired and lethargic
    • Having lots of infections
    • Having flu-like symptoms that don’t go away
    • Bleeding or bruising easily
    • Unexplained aches and pains that don’t go away
    • Unexplained seizures, changes in behaviour or vision
    • Feeling a lump or unusual firmness anywhere on the body
    • Losing a significant amount of weight in teenagers

    If you’re worried that your child is showing any of these symptoms, the CCLG advises that you take them to your GP and express your concerns about childhood cancer, just in case.