A GRIEVING mum has bravely opened up about her baby’s death in a bid to raise brain tumour awareness.
Stacey Ball was told by her GP the lump on the back of daughter Ava’s head was a soft spot when she was two-and-a-half months old.
She was later told the devastating news it was terminal cancer and Ava died at the age of eight months.
Stacey, 36, said: “The lump continued to grow and I went back to the GP a number of times. I took her back to another doctor, he looked at it and said it was not a soft spot, but he didn’t know what it was.
“I just kept saying to myself ‘she’s got cancer’ but I needed them to confirm it.
“It wasn’t until it was the size of an apple that she was referred for an MRI at the Great Western Hospital, but it took months to get an appointment. I have no idea why it took so long.”
Ava had an MRI, but it was not until she underwent a biopsy at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford that the cancer was discovered.
“I was told there was a mass inside Ava’s brain which biopsy results revealed to be a cancerous melanocytic brain tumour,” Stacey said.
“My heart broke into a million pieces. I told myself I must try to remain positive.
“But I knew in my heart that she wasn’t going to make it. That was before they told me, I knew they couldn’t save her.”
Ava underwent surgery in Oxford, but neurosurgeons told Stacey they were only able to remove around 40 per cent of the tumour.
The East Wichel mum added: “They nearly lost her twice on the operating table. As if this wasn’t gutting enough, we were told that Ava wasn’t suitable for chemotherapy or radiotherapy because neither would touch the tumour.
“They told me that Ava’s cancer was terminal. My world crumbled in that instant. All I could think was: Why my baby? Why me? How do I tell my five-year-old son his sister is dying?”
Stacey, who has since had a second boy, Oliver, 2, said Ava was not showing any symptoms.
She said: “She was so healthy until the biopsy, then she started going downhill, and she wouldn’t let anyone touch her or hold her hands but she was still a happy baby. You wouldn’t know she was ill until you saw her head.”
She said she sued the GP who misdiagnosed her daughter, adding: “She obviously apologised, saying she got it wrong, but they said they couldn’t do anything because even if the doctor did send me to the hospital that day, there was nothing they could have done.
“But I believe in my heart if she were seen earlier, I believe they could have done something.”
Ava died in her mum’s arms at around 2am in June 2017 at the Helen House Hospice in Oxford.
She said: “She took her last breath, and my heart broke again
“I lifted her up and cradled her in my arms and sang Save Your Kisses for Me to her over and over again.
“Walking out of the hospice without my little princess is the hardest thing I will ever do.”
Stacey is working with the charity Brain Tumour Research to raise awareness as a legacy for Ava.
She told the Adver: “I don’t want another family to go through what I went through and I’m hoping one day that there’ll be a cure so that if it happens to another family they would be saved.”
For those going through the same journey, Stacey said: “My best advice is to love them as much as you can, be there for them. It was hard for me and if I didn’t have my other child, I probably wouldn’t have been here now, all I can say is be strong, stick together as a family, and just get through it.”
She is urging people to make a difference by signing a petition to increase the national investment into brain tumour research to £35 million a year.
Community fundraising manager for Brain Tumour Research Melanie Tiley said: “Ava’s tragic story reminds us that brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age.
“We admire Stacey’s courage to share Ava’s heartbreaking story and are very grateful for her support with our campaign for greater investment to find a cure for this devastating disease.”
To sign the petition visit: www.braintumourresearch.org/campaigning/brain-tumour-research-petition