A fund-raising campaign has been launched for a baby girl who had to undergo a 14 hour operation to remove a tumour the size of an orange from her brain.
Olivia Jane Joan Lalor, who will celebrate her first birthday in a week, will now start a gruelling journey of chemotherapy that will last until she is two-and-a-half.
The treatment is due to start on Monday for Olivia who was only diagnosed with the cancerous tumour in July after undergoing an MRI scan. She is being treated at the Manchester Children’s Hospital where her doting parents, Graham Lalor and
Melissa Balderson, who live in the Briercliffe area of Burnley, have kept a constant vigil at her bedside.
Melissa (32) said: “It has all happened so quickly and at the moment we are still in shock.
“It took some time for doctors to discover what was wrong with Olivia but once they did she was operated on immediately.”
Problems began for Olivia when she was three months old and stopped gaining weight as a normal, healthy baby should.
Melissa’s health visitor advised feeding her daughter more food but that just resulted in Olivia suffering with projectile vomiting.
Melissa, who works as classroom assistant at Briercliffe Primary School, said: “We tried lots of different things but nothing worked so we were eventually referred to the Royal Blackburn Hospital where a paediatrician examined Olivia and a scan of her stomach was carried out but came back clear.”
It was only when the MRI scan was carried out on her head that the tumour was spotted and Olivia was transferred to Manchester for the major operation to remove it.
Melissa added: “I will never forget the moment when the surgeon, Ian Kamaly, came towards us with a big smile on his face to say that he had successfully removed 90% of the tumour that was right in the centre of her brain.
“He carried out the operation with another surgeon as it was so long but he took his breaks in the theatre because he didn’t want to leave Olivia.
“The anaethesist also came to us to say what a bond she had with Olivia. They told us what a little character she was.”
Although the operation was a success Melissa and Graham (31) who is a production worker and forklift truck driver at Mann and Hummel in Burnley, were dealt another blow as secondary tumours were discovered on Olivia’s spine. Medics hope that the chemotherapy will eventually shrink these over time.
Brave Olivia also faced another battle when fluid started to build up in between her brain and skull and a drain has been installed to help clear this. Olivia also had to undergo a transfusion as she lost so much blood during the operation.
Melissa added: “Olivia is very bubbly and happy little girl and she has been like that through all this treatment.
“She is smiley and happy and you wouldn’t know anything is wrong with her.”
The couple, including Olivia’s big brother Reece, who is seven, have been spending every weekend at the Ronald McDonald House for families of sick children that are being treated in the hospital.
Melissa said: “Graham has not left Olivia’s side since this began so while he stays with her during the week I look after Reece at home to try and keep some kind of daily routine for him.”
Friends and relatives have rallied round with help, support and regular hospital visits to Olivia to keep their spirits up and Melissa’s brother, Luke, even flew over from his home in Canada with his wife and four-month-old baby to be at Olivia’s side.
And Melissa’s cousin, Leanne Cottam, has launched a fund raising campaign to help the couple pay for their petrol and food expenses. And Olivia’s Battle Fund is already almost halfway to its £2,000 target.
Nelissa said: “We want to thank everyone who has helped us, we haven’t had chance until now.”
The Accrington Darts Super league, which Graham plays for, has thrown its support behind the battle fund and appeals for donations have also been made at cricket matches played at Burnley, Todmorden and Bacup.