16 May 2019 Featured News

Molly turns birthday into fundraiser for kids with brain cancer

Molly is celebrating her fourth birthday on May 18, and instead of presents and a party, she has asked friends and family to donate to kids in hospital. Kids just like her.

Molly, from Toowoomba, was diagnosed with an optic nerve glioma on November 1, 2018. Her parents, Michael and Michelle, want to help find a cure for brain cancer as well as raise awareness of the symptoms to help others identify a brain tumour.

Michelle said the brain tumour was “unlikely to take her life” but it would be something that stays with Molly for her entire life.

“She has lost the sight in her right eye,” Michelle explained. “Our current aim is to protect the sight in her left.”

Molly is five months through 14 months of chemotherapy as an outpatient at the Queensland Children’s Hospital.

“Amidst the challenges that a cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy treatment present, Molly remains her joyful self,” Michelle said.

Michael and Michelle know their daughter is one of the “lucky ones” because they have met other children with brain cancer, whose prognosis is far worse than Molly’s.

“She is lucky. And we are a lucky family. But we need a cure,” Michael said.

The family has set up an everydayhero page asking friends and family for donations to Australia’s first research centre solely focused on paediatric brain cancer, treatment and survivorship. The Centre for Child and Adolescent Brain Cancer Research was launched with a $5 million commitment from the Children’s Hospital Foundation in March.

Molly is too young to grasp the enormity of her diagnosis but she does understand the gift of giving.

“I’m excited to give my birthday money to the doctors so they can help kids with lumps like me,” Molly said.

Children’s Hospital Foundation chief executive Rosie Simpson said she was overwhelmed by the generosity of Molly and her family, with the fundraiser already at the $2200 mark.

“The Centre for Child and Adolescent Brain Cancer Research (CCABCR) unites the best of the best in paediatric brain research to bring new hope to children like Molly and all children diagnosed with brain cancer,” Ms Simpson said.

“Brain cancer claims the life of one Australian child every 11 days – more than any other disease. Despite advances in other types of childhood cancer, survival rates for brain cancer have made little progress over the past 30 years. The Centre for Child and Adolescent Brain Cancer Research aims to change that.”

The family hope by sharing Molly’s story they can raise awareness of her symptoms and spare parents the difficult path they took to a diagnosis.

Initial symptoms were what Molly described as earaches, and were sporadic in occurrence, duration and intensity. The pain was in fact a headache, but the tumour’s location led the then three-year-old to complain of ear pain. The headaches did not occur first thing in the morning as headaches from tumours often do, nor did Molly’s symptoms escalate over time.

The family spent months visiting several GPs, an ENT specialist, chiropractor, dentist and naturopath. “The pain was often attributed to behaviour, and the specialist felt further exploration was unnecessary because of course, her ear looked fine. There were days and weeks when she didn’t complain of pain at all,” Mrs Schmidt recalled.

Finally, an optometrist appointment put them on the path to a diagnosis, after friends and family noticed Molly’s right eye had begun to slightly wander. An MRI uncovered a slow-growing tumour on the optic nerve, which had possibly been present for years or since birth.

Michelle said they had just one birthday wish for Molly.

“Our birthday wish this year – and every year to follow – is that we get to enjoy our Molly and watch her and her little brother Harrison live long and happy lives side by side.”

To find out more about the Children’s Hospital Foundation and its commitment to the Centre for Child and Adolescent Brain Cancer Research, click here