Since her baby’s head was so strangely shaped, her mother knew there was something very wrong. When Molly Wardle’s mother, Corinne Wardle of Hampton, saw a change in her daughter’s skull when she was only 12 weeks old, she knew something was very wrong.
Corinne, a 38-year-old nurse from Flint, says that doctors told her over and over again that there was nothing wrong with her daughter, even though she had a lot of symptoms, like a bigger-than-average head size, seizures, and eyes that didn’t move. After finding two large, protruding lumps in Molly’s fontanel (the “soft spot” on the top of the baby’s head), the doctor brought the baby in for an emergency scan and gave the family the terrible news.
The scan of the 12-week-old baby showed that a tumor had spread to almost the whole right side of her brain. To get rid of it, it took over ten hours of emergency surgery.
She also said, “She started having seizures when she was three weeks old. She had a total of three seizures, so I took her to the doctor and was told to take her to paediatric outpatients. We took her to the pediatrician and told him about her seizures, the fact that she never looked left but always looked right, the fact that she was throwing up, and the fact that her head was so big. The registrar said it wasn’t seizures because she wasn’t flailing her arms and legs, that her eyes will heal, that the vomiting was caused by reflux, and that her head was just a little bigger than usual. Not long after that, we noticed that the soft spot on top of her head, called the fontanel, was swollen. She also had a sudden bump on the side of her head, and her eyes were starting to look in different directions.
At first, the family was told it wasn’t an emergency and to go to the doctor in the morning. However, a paediatric doctor was visiting another patient in the hospital and agreed to take a look. Molly’s family was upset to hear that she had cancer and would need surgery right away. Amazingly, the doctors only had to look at her for a second before they whisked her away. When they measured the size of her head, they saw that it was much bigger than average, and the fontanel was also much bigger than usual. They sent her right away for a CT scan. Within fifteen to twenty minutes, we had the results, which showed that she had a huge tumor in her brain. Doctors didn’t know if she would make it through the night because of the hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) that was putting pressure on her eyes. Consultants checked on her all night long to make sure she was okay. We were able to put her to sleep for surgery, which took about ten hours. What a wonderful doctor. From what he could see, it looked like he had taken out the whole tumor. During the surgery, she had to have all of her blood replaced. Molly spent several days in the intensive care unit after the hard surgery.
Corinne called the day of the surgery “horrendous,” and she spent a lot of it worrying about the worst that could happen. “What she went through was terrible,” she said. I had a feeling that something wasn’t right, but we didn’t think it was a tumor or cancer. When we kept getting sent back home, I thought I was going crazy at first.
You’ll do just about anything to pass the time. The day went on and on. You’re just imagining what you see all the time on TV, right? “I’m sorry, but we tried everything we could and couldn’t help.”
After surgery at the Alder Hay hospital in Liverpool, almost all of the tumor was removed. Corinne says that after that, Molly was a “different baby.” Molly had never done this before, but she lay on her back and talked to the window. I was full of feelings because she wouldn’t be put down for three months. I couldn’t believe what I saw. We were told that day could have been her last,” she said.
Molly’s tumor has stopped growing since her last MRI on January 3, 2023, which is good news. But Molly’s therapy has given her permanent problems, and she now needs hearing aids. After trying out a course of chemotherapy Molly had rung the bell by January.
Molly is now 14 months old, and she is slowly getting over the problems she had in her first few months. She is still developing a little slower than other kids her age, though. “She had her last chemo treatment a few weeks ago, and last week she rang the bell,” Corinne said. Her hearing loss is mild to moderate and will never get better. We won’t know for sure if the chemotherapy will make her sterile until she gets older. Even though her kidneys and liver may have been hurt, they seemed to be working fine at the time. Even though the experiment was hard, with seven cycles, four courses, and two chemotherapies per course, she did a good job with it. She is growing normally, but a little bit behind schedule. We spent so much time in the hospital last year that she pretty much grew up in a hospital bed. She has stopped growing because of how she sits (in a hunched position), but she is finally starting to stand up straight. She is 14 months old, but she just started eating solid foods, so she is still wearing clothes for babies 6–9 months old. She has never shown much interest in food, so she has never eaten much.
Corinne has worked at the Countess of Chester Hospital for five years and has two daughters, Leah, 12, and Kacey, 11. She works with Brain Tumour Research to spread the word and get people behind the group’s effort to get more money from the United Kingdom for brain cancer research.
She said, “I work in urgent care, so I know what a seizure is, but I was told that it wasn’t one.” When I went in for my outpatient consultation, I had six clear signs that I had a brain tumor. Molly’s oncologist says there is hope for a cure, but the evidence isn’t very strong. Even though her ependymoma is a type of cancer, it has different subtypes that have different prognoses and ways of acting. But because this discovery is so new, there are no studies or data to back it up right now. Molly’s prognosis is good, which gives us hope, but her case shows that brain tumors need to be studied more.
From what I’ve learned in my research, I’m very worried. Molly will have to get MRI scans for the rest of her life because the tumor could come back at any time. Even though there are risks and uncertainty, she still has chances to succeed. This gives me some comfort. The best part of my day was hearing her say “Mama” for the first time.