The family are trying to raise £250,000 for a treatment to stop the High Risk Neuroblastoma returning after Flo Potter, 6, was diagnosed with the rare cancer last year
A mum has shared her devastation after her daughter’s “pulled muscle” turned out to be a rare form of cancer.
Hannah Potter, thought her daughter, Flo, six, had pulled a muscle in her back in summer last year, but weeks later the youngster could barely lift herself off the sofa, Birmingham Live reports.
In the midst of Covid restrictions, Hannah was unable to get a face to face GP appointment for Flo and ended up rushing her to Sir Robert Peel Community Hospital in Tamworth where she claims they told her the pain was probably muscular.
But shockingly, Hannah claims when she took little Flo to George Elliot A&E for a second opinion doctors suggested she was being ‘dramatic’, BirminghamLive reports.
It was only after Flo was rushed to Leicester Hospital with suspected appendicitis that the family’s worst fears were confirmed and Flo was diagnosed with High-Risk Neuroblastoma.
“Partway through the summer holiday in July, she started saying that she had a bad back,” Hannah said.
“She’s always climbing trees and stuff so we put it down to a pulled muscle or something.
“A few days later she was still complaining of pain and she has quite a high pain threshold so I contacted the doctors but we couldn’t see them because of Covid.
“So they said it sounds muscular so to call back if it got worse which I did a week later.”
She added: “They couldn’t see her so I took her to a walk-in centre who said it was muscular and barely looked at her.
“That happened a couple of times and then I took her to A&E – I thought she might have an infection in her spine and they told me that I was being a bit dramatic.
“I trusted the doctors so I believed them.”
“She was getting to the point where she couldn’t get off the sofa or walk up the stairs,” the teaching assistant added.
“We had to stand behind her to make sure she didn’t fall over.
“She was no well but the doctors wouldn’t have anything of it.
“I was giving her Calpol but one day decided to not give her any and take her to the hospital so they could see how bad she was.
“I said that I wondered if she had sepsis and they thought she had appendicitis.
“She was blue lighted to Leicester and the surgeon said she didn’t think it could be that as the pain was ongoing for five weeks.
“They thought it could be a compacted bowel but one young doctor kept bringing us specialists to help.
“She was on morphine and then did an MRI scan and called us half an hour later.
“They said she had cancer and they thought it was leukaemia. She was taken then to Nottingham where she was diagnosed with High-Risk Neuroblastoma.
“She was there for five weeks and then we were moved to Birmingham Children’s Hospital.”
The diagnosis devastated the family, who were told the heartbreaking news individually, as Covid guidelines prevented Hannah and Flo’s dad Edd from seeing the doctor together.
Hannah said: “We were told at one point that she probably had childhood arthritis so we were never expecting a cancer diagnosis.
“Her dad had already been in to talk to the doctor as we were only allowed one parent in at a time.
“He was told and I saw his face and thought ‘oh my God’. Then I went in and the lady went through it all with me too.”
Hannah continued: “She had a Hickman line put in to get medication in her system quickly. She had that in within 24-hours of us being told.
“We told them to do whatever they need to do.
“She then had a biopsy taken so she has a ‘shark bite’ as she calls it scar across her tummy.
“It was so quick – she started chemotherapy the day after her diagnosis. The NHS is amazing with it all.”
Flo has now gone through aggressive chemotherapy, losing her curly hair in the process, but selfless mum Hannah also shaved her head in solidarity.
36-year-old Hannah said: “Flo is really good with it all. They took most of the tumour which helped to ease her back pain – it was nowhere near as bad.
“She lost her big curly hair and I thought she’d be traumatised when she lost it. But she shaved my head and said, ‘I’ll be alright now!'”
She added: “She is having intense chemotherapy – five different ones. Flo had over 100 areas of cancer throughout her body, even in the bones in her face.
“In order for her to get stem cell treatment, she needs to be down to three and she still has around 12.
“She had her last lot of chemo treatment on Christmas Eve which has hopefully brought the numbers down.”
The family are now fundraising for a treatment in America that could prevent the cancer from returning. A GoFundMe page has already raised over £32,000 of the £250,000 needed.
“There is a vaccine they call it available in New York which costs £250,000 so we’re trying to raise money for that,” Hannah said.
“The cancer she has a high rate of relapse so that would hopefully stop that.
“If we don’t use the money for that, then we will donate the money to all of the charities that have helped us instead.”
The mum, who also has a two-year-old daughter, Phoebe, said that she has been blown away by the support of the community.
Dr Magnus Harrison, Executive Medical Director at University Hospitals of Derby and Burton, said: “We understand that this must be an extremely difficult time for the family and we are really sorry that we did not make a diagnosis earlier.
“We would like to extend our support to them and advise the family to contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) if they wish to discuss this case further.”
A George Eliot Hospital spokesperson said: “We are sorry to hear of Ms Potter’s experience and we wish Flo well.
“We can’t discuss an individual’s care in detail, but we do invite Flo’s family to get in contact with us so we can investigate their concerns.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.