By Catherine Reid
A family who were told that their toddler had an inoperable brain tumour the size of a tennis ball are celebrating – after it miraculously shrank to the size of a peanut AFTER her treatment had finished.
Brave Jorja Dawson, two, from Bestwood, Nottingham, was diagnosed with cancer in April 2016 after her mum Carla McFarlane, 30, begged doctors to test her for a brain tumour after she kept falling over.
Despite doctors initially telling Carla her daughter was suffering from a virus, she eventually convinced them to carry out a brain scan – when it was revealed there was a 5x7cm tumour growing in the middle of her brain.
Jorja had surgery to remove fluid from around the tumour, but doctors told her devastated parents that because of the tumour’s position, they couldn’t remove it, and weeks of intensive chemo failed to shrink the tumour.
The tot was given intense rounds of chemotherapy which began to shrink the tumour, but she stopped having treatment in November 2016 because it was making her too ill.
But amazingly, the tumour continued to shrink and at a scan on Thursday (Feb 2), it was revealed it is now just the size of a peanut.
Medics believe that Jorja’s body had a delayed reaction to the chemotherapy – as the chemo stays active for up to six months in the body – meaning it continued to shrink the tumour after she was told she couldn’t have any more treatment.
Full-time mum Carla said: “To go from being told she might die to this is just unbelievable.
“We’ve been so, so lucky.”
Carla became increasingly worried about Jorja in March last year, when the tot kept being sick and was wobbly on her feet.
She said: “She was constantly being sick every morning but we kept being told it was just a virus.
“I then noticed her head was slanted to one side and even though she could walk when she was nine months old, she was really wobbly.
“It got to the point where she’d stand up and she’d look petrified.
“She’d just look straight through me as well, it was really strange.
“Every single one of these symptoms was a sign of a brain tumour.”
Eventually she was rushed to hospital, where a biopsy revealed she had PNET Pineoblastoma which was causing her head to fill with fluid.
Little Jorja then underwent four hour brain surgery to drain the fluid from her brain, but sadly surgeons were unable to remove the tumour.
Mum-of-six Carla said: “The tumour was blocking a ventricle and her head was just filling with fluid.
“The surgeons managed to drain the fluid successfully but they couldn’t remove the tumour.
“There were too many blood vessels in it and it would have caused too much bleeding.
“This type of tumour is more common in teenagers, but luckily she still had a soft spot on her skull which allowed her skull to expand with the fluid.
“Otherwise the pressure would have just continued to build up.”
Jorja then had chemotherapy every three weeks to try and shrink the tumour – which was the size of a tennis ball – but was told in November she couldn’t have any more because it was making her too ill.
But thankfully, the agonising wait for parents Carla and Jorja’s dad, Lee Dawson, is now over when they received the great news Jorja’s tumour has shrunk.
Tumours can continue to shrink after chemotherapy stops because it remains active in the body for up to six months after treatment ends.
Carla said: “We’ve been so, so lucky.
“There’s a chance the tumour will come back and she’ll have to be closely monitored for the rest of her life probably, but it’s now really tiny.
“We’re just ecstatic and I’m so, so proud of her.
“To go from being told she might die to this is just unbelievable.
“All we can do now is keep faith that it won’t grow back and the chemo has done its job.”
Carla said: “People we don’t know have been sending her messages and cards on Facebook.
“There’s been times where I’m in bits and at breaking point, and then these people I don’t even know have picked me up again.”