Stricken little girl's 'wonderful dreams list'

Last updated 05:00 26/04/2014
Iris Pouao

LOVE FOR IRIS: Iris Pouao, 7, with her 5-year-old brother Tutavake, mum Darlene Tuiono and dad Tuaanu Pouao.

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Iris Pouao is a bold little girl who has wild dreams of riding elephants, going to Disneyland, and getting a submarine. Sadly, the 7-year-old has only a year to get it done.

She has a tumour from her brain stem to her spinal cord, a type of cancer called diffused intrinsic pontine glioma, which, because of its position, can't be removed.

Iris has just finished a six-week course of radiotherapy to try to shrink the tumour, which could give her a little more time than the nine to 12 months doctors have estimated she will live.

In February Iris told her family that the lowlight of her day had been her eye going cross. Her mum, Darlene Tuiono, put that together with headaches Iris had been having, sudden falls and instances where she had misjudged distances. She took her to the doctor to get checked, and from there it happened quickly.

On a Tuesday she had an MRI, on the Wednesday the family were told Iris had a brain tumour, were shown the scan and where the tumour was, and on the Thursday they heard it was incurable, Tuiono said.

She and her husband, Tuaanu Pouao, decided that same week they would stop work - Darlene is a test analyst and Tuaanu a builder - and spend as much time as they could with Iris and her brother Tutavake, 5.

That's where the Porirua community comes in. Earlier this month about 500 people came together for a huge group fitness training organised by former Hurricane Ace Tiatia, raising more than $11,000 for the family.

"It's overwhelming," Tuiono said. "When we first walked in [to the group fitness event], I saw my husband taken back in his breath.

"There were friends and family, and friends of friends and people who had travelled from overseas and from around the country, people we didn't even know."

A charity basketball match, "Jamming for Iris", has been organised by another friend of the family next month, with the likes of Tana Umaga and Jerry Collins taking part in the hope of raising more funds for the family.

Iris herself knows what's going on, and describes the constant trips to the hospital and doctor as "boring". "We told her about a lump in her head, the headaches, the cross-eye, that was because of the lump," Tuiono said.

"When the time was right again, when she had grasped that, we told her about the word cancer."

Iris still hasn't been told it's terminal, but Tuiono believes Iris knows.

In the meantime, Tuiono and Pouao are focusing on making the most of the time the family have together, with a campervan trip to the South Island next on the list.

"She's created this magical, wonderful dreams list and she's also got this fun list, like coming to the park, going bowling.

"The dreams list is like, ride an elephant, and she wants her own submarine - I don't know where we're going to get a submarine from."

"Jamming for Iris" is at Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua, on May 13, 6pm tip-off.

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- Fairfax Media

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