Friday 22 March 2019

'Miracle' operation gives Fi a new lease of life

Brave family overwhelmed by amazing support for Fi who has been given good prognosis

Sophia (Fi) McMahon-Egan in her bedroom in Dunmain.
Sophia (Fi) McMahon-Egan in her bedroom in Dunmain.
Fi with her parents Bridget and Leon.
The scan showing the tumour that was inside Fi.

David Looby

A local girl who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at Christmas has made a miraculous recovery.

Born on August 24, 2013, five-year-old Sophia McMahon-Egan - who is known as Fi - was rushed to Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin on Christmas Eve where she was diagnosed with stage 4 Wilms' tumours and with metastatic tumours three days later.

She had a major operation in late February, when her tumour and a kidney were removed. The surgery was pushed forward by a week as there were serious concerns her life could be at risk as the tumour had gone up inside the main artery like a tunnel towards the liver and she had spots on her lung also.

Her father Leon said if the cancer hadn't been detected when it was Fi might not have lived beyond April. 'If they hadn't of caught it within six months it would have been on her heart. She didn't even have time to have a blood transfusion before starting her chemotherapy on the Friday after Christmas, two days after St Stephen's Day. They couldn't do a biopsy on it as it was ready to pop.'

The Gusserane NS Junior Infants pupil is the youngest of five (brothers Alex, Dean and Josh and sister Enya).

Her parents Leon and Bridget were told by Fi's doctor prior to the operation that there was a chance she could die.

Leon said: 'The doctor gave us the worst possible outcome. After the operation he said it was one of the worst cases he had seen as the size of the tumour was so big compared to Fi's size. It was the same width as her hips. They removed the tumour and sent it away for a biopsy and the cancer was dead. We can't believe it!'

Wilms' tumour is a type of kidney cancer that often affects children under the age of seven. Leon said: 'It knocked on our door on Christmas Day. We brought Fi up to Wexford General on Christmas Eve as she had blood in her urine. She was transferred to University Hospital Waterford where Fi had an ultra sound and within two hours she was being rushed to hospital in Dublin. She had a scan on Christmas Day in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Crumlin and on Stephen's Day morning the news was broken to me.'

The family were horrified to learn the tumours were most likely present in Fi for up to 16 months.

'The doctors said she shouldn't have survived but she has come back from the brink. The tumour was near the artery of her heart. Her lung was dying but the cancer peeled away from the liver. Her doctor couldn't believe it. It just popped out and the cancer cells were 100 per cent dead. I am putting it down to just pure positivity. She's up and walking around now. She is a miracle!'

Leon and Bridget have been given a very positive prognosis for their little Fi, having braced themselves for the worst news.

'It's all very positive. We have another six months of chemotherapy to prevent anything from coming back. She is past the critical stage at the moment and it looks like Fi isn't going to need a liver transplant. Keeping it off the lung is the main thing. She's home now since last Wednesday and both us and her doctor are scratching our heads. We got the best answer on every single thing we could have asked for.'

When this newspaper called to the family's home in Dunmain we were greeted by a smiling Fi and her parents. Having undergone an intense chemotherapy session on Friday, she, and her parents, had very little sleep.

Leon said Fi gets sick and is very tired after her chemo treatment. 'We are hoping and praying to hear the words "in remission" before Christmas. We are still in shock to be honest as we had ourselves prepared for the absolute worst outcome. The gods were smiling down on her that day and the doctor too. He came out of surgery whistling. He was so happy. I think I am after witnessing a miracle,' Leon, 36, said.

The sitting-room has been converted into a princess wonderland for Fi, with pink walls featuring slogans like Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful and PS I Love You, with a wide screen TV for Fi to watch her favourite film Frozen and play on the Wii when she has the energy. Family photos are displayed on the wall opposite her bed, beside which is a drip and tray with medicines.

Both Leon and Bridget are trained in applying her bandages and giving her medicine.

'I don't like the tubey any more', Fi says in her sing song voice.

Leon said the family has been through a lot over the past few years and if not for the assistance of a spiritual healer and close family friend named Daniel they don't know they would have gotten through the last three months.

'I was shown the scan on St Stephen's Day. If this happened a year ago (before we learned spiritual healing), I don't know where we'd be,' he says, playing with a teddy with Fi. 'When she was asleep we'd lie beside her and play the spiritual music.'

Leon and Bridget said they are overwhelmed by the support they have received from people across the country over recent days and weeks.

'The sheer amount of people who have helped us, it would break your heart. Bridget and I are overwhelmed by all the support and kindness, including from her school. Fi's teacher Vicky Roche got the word out to the media about her. So many people have helped us like Floor Gallery in Waterford and Woodbine furniture.'

Fi received a special letter from Santa before her big operation and her parents are forever grateful to Danny Brennan in New Ross for ensuring it got to their daughter in time. More than €7,000 was raised for the couple to fit out a hospital room for Fi, while Gusserane NS, where Fi and a sibling attend, donated almost €1,000 from a pink t-shirt day and Slimming World in Terrerath raised €300.

The family are only living on a disability allowance as Leon suffered an injury from a fall and Bridget is currently training to be a hairdresser, so all donations were gratefully received.

Bridget and Leon thanked everyone for helping them make life as comfortable as possible for Fi.

'She is out of hospital now and is getting back to herself. We'd just warn people to get their child tested (whenever they feel something isn't right). She is one of the lucky ones. It could have been a lot worse,' Bridget said.

New Ross Standard