The family of a six-year-old Derry girl was diagnosed with a brain tumour just days after she took part in a charity race, have described their daughter as a little ‘warrior.’
Hollie Brady was diagnosed with a brain tumour last October and since then has had brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Her family’s lives were ‘shattered’ by the shock diagnosis.
Mum Laura explained that the only symptoms her daughter had displayed were vomiting and headaches.
“Hollie started waking up at around 5am every morning with a bit of a sore head and then she would have threw up.
“The first time it happened we went to the GP who checked her over. Hollie was fine in herself and the doctor advised if it happened again to bring her back.”
Hollie visited the doctor again two days later and blood tests were done, which came back clear.
“I thought they were going to say she was anaemic because she was getting a bit tired and was surprised when they were clear.”
Laura said her daughter took part in a charity run a short time later and that night began ‘squealing in pain’.
She was admitted to hospital the following day and an MRI scan was conducted which showed three tumours on Hollie’s brain.
“The doctors said it was really bad and that they didn’t know what the tumours were. It was devastating, completely heart-wrenching for us to hear this.”
Hollie, who is affectionately known as ‘Hollie Boots’, was immediately started on high-dose steroids and transferred to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.
For a few days the family was in limbo as the medical team did not have any answers about the nature of the tumour.
“We just knew it was bad and it shouldn’t have been there. Those few days were really hard for us because we didn’t have answers.”
Hollie had brain surgery in an attempt to remove some of the tumour and after a seven hour surgery, she amazed the nurses in intensive care by asking for toast and juice when she came round.
The family had another long wait for pathology results, which would determine what kind of tumour Hollie had.
Initially they were told it was a highly aggressive tumour and doctors recommended immediately starting both chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
However, a sample of the tumour was also sent to America for testing which gave a different diagnosis of an incredibly rare tumour in children.
“The treatment plan changed after that. They harvested her stem cells and decided to give her two rounds of chemotherapy. Hollie was even getting chemo on her sixth birthday last December.”
After spending Christmas and New Year at home with her whole family, Hollie started radiotherapy treatment on her head and spine.
“She had 30 sessions in total and while she tolerated it fine the whole way through, afterwards was really tough on her. She is so brave and never complains about anything but she was so tired after the radiotherapy.
“Six weeks later, she was symptomatic again and stopped walking. The effects seemed to hit her all at once.”
Hollie had another MRI and this resulted in yet another change in her treatment.
“The tumours hadn’t really responded to the treatment she had been having and she was started on a different course of chemotherapy. She is tolerating it really well and finally coming back to herself. She is getting her wee personality back,” Laura explained.
“I hope that this works. I know it’s not curable, but hopefully this can keep it at bay for a while and give her a quality of life back for as long as possible.”
Hollie is still unable to walk, has a weakness on her right side and is very dependent on her family.
However, she is finally starting to laugh again after a tough year.
“She is the best wee girl. Not once has she ever complained about the amount of medicine she has to take everyday or getting bloods. She just sits and lets them do it. It is amazing to watch how brilliant she is and I am just so, so proud of her,” Laura.
“There was times when I lost her, when she didn’t want to anything and wouldn’t laugh. I didn’t hear her laugh for weeks and it was totally heartbreaking. Now she is getting her personality back and bossing me about!”
Hollie’s aunt and uncle organised a charity boxing night to help raise money for the family earlier this month and raised a fantastic £6,000.
Laura said that if the current treatment doesn’t work, her aim is to use this money to take her daughter to America.
“We don’t know whether it will be feasible or if Hollie could tolerate the flight, but St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis is the lead research centre for brain tumours in the world and that is our goal.”