Seven-year-old Carys Bradshaw has been diagnosed with a rare, deadly form of brain cancer.
Seven-year-old Carys Bradshaw has been diagnosed with a rare, deadly form of brain cancer.

A little girl's last hope

CARYS Bradshaw is everyone's best friend. She loves to dance, excels at Nippers and is known by her Year Two classmates as being kind, funny and caring to all she meets.

But the happy seven-year-old's whole world changed in December when she started suffering from unexplained headaches and vomiting.

"Around mid-December Carys started to complain of the odd headache - she would tell me she had a headache and hold the back of her head but moments later she seemed completely fine and acting normally, so at first I didn't think too much of it," her mum Rachel Bradshaw tells news.com.au.

"Then towards the end of December she vomited in the car - her sister had had a tummy bug so I thought that was the cause of it, but then a few days later she vomited again, and then she'd vomit every other day or so, which seemed strange as she was otherwise completely fine.

"She continued to complain of these seemingly benign headaches every now and then so I took her to a GP who said that unless the headaches were incapacitating, then not to worry - he suggested an eye test.

"However, the vomiting and headaches continued so a week later I took her to another GP who was also puzzled as to what was going on but said to be one the safe side to go for an MRI scan."

"At this stage I was a little concerned but presumed that the MRI was a precautionary measure to simply rule out anything awful."

Carys Bradshaw (left), pictured with her little sister, has a devastating prognosis. Source:Supplied
Carys Bradshaw (left), pictured with her little sister, has a devastating prognosis. Source:Supplied

Carys had the MRI on January 13 and two hours later the GP called and asked to see them immediately.

She was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG - a very rare and aggressive form of brain cancer, which affects young children.

DIPG is inoperable and there is no cure.

Even with radiotherapy, the prognosis for recovery is less than one per cent and life expectancy is up to one year after diagnosis.

Rachel Bradshaw with her daughter Carys.
Rachel Bradshaw with her daughter Carys.

"I'll never forget her words - 'there is no easy way to tell you this - Carys has a tumour on her brain'," a heartbroken Ms Bradsaw tells news.com.au.

"Everything changed that day."d

"My whole outlook on life was brutally put into perspective.

"The things that you think you need in your life to make you happy simply don't matter anymore - you realise that all that really matters is your family and their health.

"As a parent of a healthy child, you take for granted that you will see your children grow up, you imagine what they will be like as teenagers, as adults, what their lives will be like.

"I always used to imagine what it's going to be like in the future when I'm older with my two grown up daughters, I used to daydream about us all being close and for my girls to love and support each other, long after I am gone.

"So to suddenly be told that one of your beautiful little girls will never grow up is - I can't even find a word that can describe the emotion - devastating.

"It is indescribable pain."

Seven-year-old Carys knows she’s sick, but doesn’t know the extent of her brain cancer prognosis.
Seven-year-old Carys knows she’s sick, but doesn’t know the extent of her brain cancer prognosis.

The Manly West Public School pupil finished her first course of radiation today, and has had a hard road since diagnosis just six weeks ago.

The Belrose mum said Carys had coped with her radiation treatment in a truly remarkable way, being a source of strength for all around her - even going straight to school after each morning treatment and being a great big sister to two-year-old Maya.

"She's never complained, never cried and just gets on with it - she has an amazing fighting spirit inside of her," Ms Bradshaw said.

"She is an inspiration.

"I am trying to keep her life as normal as possible for her and it is important that she spends time with her friends and carry on with her normal activities for as long as she can.

"Carys knows she is not well and needs an operation, but she has no idea of the seriousness or the sad prognosis.
"Carys is a daredevil and the sort of little girl who will try anything and is always fun to be around, yet she has a very deep, caring and loving side to her.

"To me, she's perfect."

Before Carys' diagnosis, Ms Bradshaw worked as a legal secretary and had applied to start a nursing course this year.

Divorced from Carys' dad, the single mother has since stopped working to spend time with her daughter.

She is also determined to get Carys to the UK for a ground breaking DIPG research trial at the University of Bristol, whose specialists are leading the world in a new method of direct drug delivery to the brain called Convection Enhanced Delivery, or CED.

This method involves the surgical implementation of very fine catheters into the brain using a dedicated robot technique, and has proven to be safe, with few unpleasant side effects and possibly increasing a patient's life span by two years.

Carys has been accepted into the DIPG research trial in London which is scheduled to start next month.

"After finding out about the CED treatment in London I knew that I had to do all I could to give Carys this chance while she is still well and before this tumour starts to take her away from me and her family," Ms Bradshaw said.

"I know that I must have realistic expectations and that this is not a guaranteed cure - however, there is some hope, and we have to give it to her."

Brain cancer kills more children than any other disease in Australia, and DIPG is the most dangerous brain tumour, and the least understood.

"Overall, the survival rate for children with cancer is around 83 per cent, but these medical advances have done nothing for children with DIPG," she said.

"Once the survival rate for leukaemia was 10 per cent - it is now 90 per cent because it has received research funding.

"Researchers believe that with enough funding they can do for DIPG what has already been done for leukaemia.

"There are researchers who have devoted their lives to the study of this disease, but there is no money to pay for the research, therefore the prognosis for kids today is the same as it was 50 years ago.

"I hope you find that as shocking as I do."

To help get Carys to London, donate at gofundme.com/caringforcarys

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