Surgery not enough to stop toddler's cancer

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 11:03 13/08/2014
JOSHUA DONNELLY
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
LITTLE FIGHTER: Laurel Ketel with her daughter Adelaide who has had a tumour removed from her lung.

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Nelson parents Laurel and Andrew Ketel are facing one of their lowest points in their daughter's "cruel" battle against cancer.

Their little girl Adelaide, whose perpetual motion is restricted only by the feeding tube still secured in her nose, is due to start chemotherapy in Christchurch tomorrow.

Hopes have been dashed that surgery to remove a tumour the size of a cricket ball from Adelaide's tiny frame was enough to arrest the disease.

The growth that was finally diagnosed as a rare, low-grade cancer is still on a war path, the latest follow-up scan showed.

The inflammatory myofibroblastic tumour - a locally aggressive malignancy, which had attached itself to Adelaide's right lung and part of her heart, was finally confirmed in May after the Ketels initially thought they had dodged the cancer bullet.

In March Adelaide was found to have a large growth in her chest, which the family was initially warned was likely to be cancerous. Oncologists at Christchurch Hospital said on the results of an earlier biopsy it was not cancer but further investigation revealed the extent of surgery required to remove the growth, and that it was cancerous.

"Everything changes all the time. We have been told so many different things so many times," Laurel Ketel said yesterday. The hope now was that chemotherapy would shrink the cancer, which is wrapping itself around Adelaide's heart and lung, to the stage that further surgery would then be possible.

"Surgery is not an option right now as they would have to remove part of her left atrium which is too risky. So now she will have to try chemo."

The Ketels now feel at their lowest ebb.

"This feels like one of the lowest points we've been at and it's very distressing. We just want our beautiful girl to be healthy and happy and not having to fight this hideous, cruel fight."

The irony was that Adelaide was bouncier and brighter than she had been for months, which was as a result of the initial surgery to remove the large mass in her chest.

"She has more energy, she's happy and not nearly as clingy," Laurel said yesterday, as Adelaide swiped a teaspoon through the froth of a cup of coffee and screwed up her nose at the taste of it.

The Ketels are also now having to weigh up their options with the business they bought just before Adelaide's diagnosis.

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They had just taken on Richmond business Queen St Fruit and Vege, and through the Nelson Mail sought help running the business while they were in Christchurch earlier this year. The call for help attracted a huge public response - from offers of help from suitably qualified people, to offers of childcare, financial help and messages of condolence.

Their situation has now meant a complete re-think of their options and how they intend to manage.

The family, including Adelaide's three year-old brother Elliot, and nine year-old sister Ava, now face having to spend a gruelling few weeks apart, depending on how Adelaide copes with the treatment ahead. It's possible the chemotherapy might able to be administered at Nelson Hospital.

Laurel is under no illusion how tough this is for their other two children, who are having to share the remains of what their emotionally and physically spent parents have to offer.

"It's really hard that the kids are going through this, especially as there'll only be one parents at home for a while.

"This is our lowest point, but we have never asked why this happened to us. It's unfair, and just really bad luck."

Laurel said they were grateful for all the help, especially from their own immediate families.

■ If you want to know more, visit Adelaide's Journey on Facebook.

- The Nelson Mail

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