The mother of a child cancer patient has urged parents to trust their instincts and ask for a second opinion if they do not think their child has been diagnosed correctly.
In 2016, then-three-year-old Millie Mai was diagnosed with cancer and began a gruelling regime of regular chemotherapy.
To begin with, however, her doctors continually misdiagnosed her – and over a three-month period the family saw 10 different medics.
“I kept being fobbed off and told, ‘It’s viral, it’s viral’ and when I really pushed for antibiotics they thought I was imagining symptoms,” Millie Mai’s mother Susan Mangan told Newstalk Breakfast.
“She did have symptoms of a viral infection but, unfortunately, I knew there was something more.
“I never thought in a million years it would be a childhood cancer.”
After they found a lump in Millie Mai’s chest and she began to complain of pain in her chest; the family were sent to hospital where medics did not seem too concerned about her.
“One of the doctors said, ‘She doesn’t eat enough red meat - that’s why her white blood cells are higher than her normal cells. It looks fine, come back in a week and we’ll do the blood tests in a week and we’ll see where we are then.’”
The family returned home but Millie Mai was unable to settle that night and they returned to the hospital the next day.
“There was something about her that I could not put my finger on, so I asked for a second opinion,” Ms Mangan said.
“I was scared to ask the doctor, of all things, for a second opinion, because you’re ‘only a Mammy’ but thankfully I did ask for a second opinion.”
When Millie Mai was sent in for an x-ray, it revealed she had a “huge” tumour in her chest and another one in her neck.
Ms Mangan said the aftermath was “very scary” because they were unsure if Millie Mai would survive.
“Even though the statistics are getting better each year, there’s some children that don’t make it off that ward,” she said.
“Here we are in September - Childhood Cancer Awareness Month - it’s all year round for some of these families.
“It’s a really, really big thing that we need to get more information out on and more awareness.
“I’d like to see it in schools; teaching people about the symptoms, the science and how to catch it early.”
'Completely great now'
Millie Mai is soon due to finish her treatment and her life will soon be that of an ordinary schoolgirl.
“This November she’s going to ring the bell and be completely done with oncology appointments,” Ms Mangan said.
“It’s a huge thing and something we’ve been looking forward to for a long-time.
“She’s completely great now with hair down her back - it’s brilliant.
“We’re at the end of the road, thankfully.”
Main image: Susan Mangan and Millie Mai.