A one in 18 million miracle. Four-year-old Sarah Waller looking forward to starting school after beating rare cancer
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Sarah Waller is a typical four-year-old full of energy and a passion for children's cartoon Peppa Pig.
But when the little girl goes to school for the first time in two weeks it will be an extra special moment for her and her family following an eight month battle with a rare cancer.
When a tumour was found on her liver two years ago, her parents feared the worst when doctors told them that their daughter was one in 18 million to be diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, which had spread to her lungs.
However, the girl from Barnham, near Thetford, bravely fought off the cancer, which involved a long operation to remove a third of her liver and gall bladder and 11 rounds of chemotherapy.
It was the second big battle of her life after she was born 11 weeks early in June 2010 at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds weighing 2lb.
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Alex and Jono Waller, who both work for Suffolk Police in Mildenhall, said they were now looking forward to their daughter growing up following a roller coaster five years, which began with Mrs Waller receiving IVF treatment on the NHS to conceive their first child.
However, 29 weeks into the pregnancy, she was rushed to hospital for an emergency caesarean section as a result of pre-eclampsia.
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Sarah spent the first nine weeks of her life in hospital, but had countless visits to see specialists during her first two years battling problems with her heart and intestine as well as numerous infections.
Sarah was discharged from the care of neonatal staff in May 2010. However, two months later, her parents received an even bigger shock.
Mr Waller, 39, said: 'I took her to the doctors in Ixworth because there was a lump on her tummy and I could not tell if it was constipation or bloating and the GP said we needed to go to the West Suffolk Hospital straight away. We had the GP appointment at 11am and by 5pm we were on the children's cancer ward at Addenbrooke's. It was a brilliant call by the GP.'
'It was a massive tumour on her liver and she had two tiny tumours on her lungs. The liver tumour was big enough that other organs had to move to accommodate it,' he said.
Sarah received eight rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the size of the tumours during August, September and October 2012 and on October 31 2012 she had an eight hour operation to remove part of her liver at Birmingham Children's Hospital.
Her last round of chemo was in January 2013, which helped destroy the tumours in her lungs
The couple praised the 'amazing' support of the staff at the West Suffolk Hospital and Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge during their daughter's eight month treatment for cancer.
'We are very lucky and she is a bit of a miracle,' said Mrs Waller, 39.
'If someone said before that this would have happened with an extremely premature baby who had cancer at two, I would not have thought I could get through that. But you do because you do not have a choice and you get on with it.'
'The first couple of weeks after diagnosis are a bit of a blank. Maybe it is the way your mind deals with extreme stress and we found we got into a routine after that. Once the tumour had gone, we felt on the home straight.'
Mr Waller added: 'When she was first diagnosed we did not know how it would go and if we would ever see her go to school.'
'With Sarah going to school, that is the real start of normality and the rest of her life. With a one in a 18 million chance, I may send her to buy a lottery ticket!'
Their daughter is looking forward to her first day at Barnham Primary School on September 5.
The family is also set to lead a March on Cancer event in Norwich in October to help raise money and promote the work of Cancer Research UK.