The parents of a 10-year-old girl have recalled the shock moment she was diagnosed with a brain tumour - and the help they have received from fellow mums and dads.
Aycliffe Drive primary school pupil Freya Creaser was diagnosed in February after symptoms including 'fuzzy eyes' and sickness.
She’d been to a GP in January who thought it was a urinary tract infection (UTI). But when mother Lisa took her back to the GP a month later, she was referred for an eye test.
Freya had tests at Specsavers in Hemel Hempstead, which revealed swelling of the optic nerve. The next day, she had an emergency appointment at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and an MRI a week later.
“I thought a week was too long to wait as a swollen optic nerve indicated swelling on her brain,” said Lisa, 34, who works for the NHS in St Alban’s.
“We were told there would be up to a 10 day wait for the results. But, at 9pm the following evening, I got a phone call to say Freya had fluid on her brain and an ambulance was on its way to pick us up."
The worried sick mum called her mother-in-law to stay with Kieren and Molly as Ian was away for work.
She went in the ambulance with Freya to John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, while her husband Ian drove to meet them there.
Another scan revealed Freya had a pound coin sized brain tumour. Due to its position, doctors decided it was too risky to remove it or take a biopsy.
But she had surgery to relieve pressure on her brain caused by the build-up of fluid. Now the family are on ‘watch and wait’ as Freya is monitored.
“No parent ever expects to hear the words ‘your child has a brain tumour.’” said Lisa.
“I was in shock for three weeks after Freya was diagnosed. We felt so alone and didn’t know where to turn to for support.”
Lisa and Ian, from Boxmoor, found about The Brain Tumour Charity by searching online. And recently they took Freya, her brother Kieren, 13, and sister Molly, five, to a charity fun day with 10 other families.
It was held at Camp Mohawk, near Wargrave, Berkshire, which is set up for children with special needs.
Freya and her siblings enjoyed activities including an inflatable obstacle course, a sensory garden, petting zoo, and indoor sensory and music rooms.
And for the parents, it was a chance to chat with fellow adults in a similar position.
“Reading through other people’s stories on the charity’s Facebook page really helped us,” said Lisa.
“It made us feel like we were less on our own with our battle.
“Freya’s tumour is very slow growing and doctors think it’s non-cancerous.
“She’ll have MRI scans twice a year. We do our best to think positive.”
Father Ian, 34, added: “When a child is diagnosed with a brain tumour, it has a major impact on the whole family.”
Now the family is backing the charity’s HeadSmart campaign to raise awareness about children’s brain tumour symptoms and reduce diagnosis time. The campaign has just won a National Lottery Award, after being voted the UK’s best health project.
Elissa Coster, The Brain Tumour Charity’s children and family services manager, said: “It was lovely to see to see Freya and her siblings having such a brilliant day, along with our other families.
“The days aim to let children feel like kids for the day away from the daily stresses of living with a brain tumour.
“They also give mums and dads the opportunity to meet up with other parents facing similar challenges and to share their stories.”