Girl given devastating diagnosis after family dog jumped on her lap


Evelyn Thomsen was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma after the incident with the family dog – a rare cancer which can cause tumours in the bones or surrounding soft-tissues.

Evelyn Thomsen, 10, with her dog Hazel
Evelyn Thomsen, 10, with her dog Hazel

A schoolgirl received a shock cancer diagnosis after the family puppy Hazel jumped on her lap, leaving a painful patch of swelling on her calf.

Evelyn Thomsen, 10, was rushed to her GP then referred to the emergency department, where she was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare cancer which can cause tumours in the bones or surrounding soft-tissues.

Her parents, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine scientists Lisa Reimer and Eddie Thomsen, have spoken of the terrifying ordeal, which happened after Evelyn was playing with their six-month-old Labrador puppy.

Hazel had hopped onto Evelyn’s lap, which hurt her “much more than it should have,” Lisa, originally from America, told the Liverpool Echo.

“When we looked we noticed this swelling on her calf. It looked a bit odd so we called the walk-in centre and they said just put an ice-pack on it.

Evelyn during her treatment at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital
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Image:

Henry Dancer Days)

“There was no change so we went to the GP at Penny Lane Surgery. The GP looked at it and said ‘that does not look right’.”

Their GP then urged Evelyn, from Aigburth in Liverpool, to go straight to the emergency department at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

Evelyn underwent an X-ray and then an ultrasound exam, which led doctors to arrange an MRI scan a few days later.

Lisa said: “When we were in A&E I was a little bit embarrassed, I was glad we were getting seen so quickly but there are people with much bigger injuries and at that time I thought it was a minor injury, I wasn’t sure we needed to be there.

“On the day of her MRI she was in hospital with her dad and I was waiting at home because we were supposed to be going away for the weekend.

“She went in at 10am and I thought she would be home by noon.”

Evelyn’s gruelling treatment required 14 rounds of chemotherapy alongside multiple blood transfusions, radiotherapy and surgery
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Image:

Henry Dancer Days)

However, the MRI scan revealed that the lump in Evelyn’s leg had its own blood supply – a clear sign it was a large tumour.

Further tests confirmed the diagnosis of cancer and revealed a second tumour was also growing on her lung.

“Evelyn knew something wasn’t right when she was still in hospital at 9pm,” Lisa said.

“The consultant said to my husband ‘can I speak openly in front of Evelyn?’ and he said yes, so she knew right away it was cancer, and she knew enough about cancer to kind of know what that meant.

“I have to say she was terrified, and it didn’t help that her dad and I were crying.

“We were just overwhelmed and I think she sensed that.

“To be honest it’s hard for me to remember those first few weeks. It felt like I was just floating; we were on autopilot.”

Evelyn with her mum Lisa, dad Eddie and little sister Mae
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Image:

Henry Dancer Days)

Evelyn’s gruelling treatment required 14 rounds of chemotherapy alongside multiple blood transfusions and 28 days of radiotherapy and surgery.

Lisa said her daughter had to spend six days in hospital every two weeks for chemotherapy – with further emergency admissions due to infections caused by Evelyn’s weakened immune system.

Over the course of the past seven months, Evelyn has received treatment at Alder Hey, the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Birkenhead and surgery to remove the tumour at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

While some further radiotherapy treatment on her lung lies ahead, Evelyn’s doctors now say both tumours have disappeared.

After a tough year, the family say they are now looking forward to taking theatre lover Evelyn to a West End – show thanks to a grant from children’s cancer charity Henry Dancer Days (HDD).

Evelyn with her mum Lisa, dad Eddie, little sister Mae and dog Hazel
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Image:

Henry Dancer Days)

The charity was set up by Jane Nattrass, a grieving Mum whose only child, Henry Dancer, died of a rare form of bone cancer at the age of 12.

HDD provides funding for families to help with medical expenses or to create special memories in the darkness of cancer treatment. The charity also provides workshops in hospitals, including a storytelling project which appealed to Evelyn.

As part of the workshop, Evelyn was asked to describe her cancer journey in four words and say why she chose them.

She wrote: “Scary, I felt worried and scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen next.

“Happy; I’ve had some happy times in the hospital. I got to eat whatever I wanted, and I felt loved throughout the journey.

“Angry; I felt angry when people stared at me, when other people got to do fun things and I had to sit in hospital.

“Sick; I felt so sick because of the chemotherapy, but also from all the liquid medicines I had to take.”

Lisa added: “She has been so incredibly resilient, she has been through disappointment after disappointment.

“She has seen her friends growing and doing things she has not been able to do. It has been such a hard journey for her not being able to see her friends, not looking like everybody else, feeling quite exhausted.

“She has not complained.”

Ms Nattrass, founder and director of Henry Dancer Days, added: “We are so proud to provide support to amazing and inspiring people like Evelyn and her family.

“Our small grants and donations try to ease some of the pressures that families can endure when experiencing the mental and physical demands of a Cancer journey, which was one of the defining factors behind the charity being set up almost a decade ago.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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