Mila began to complain about severe headaches. In January 2016, the five-year-old from Welland also started to vomit frequently.
“We thought it was the flu or a sinus infection,” says Mila’s mother, Andrea. “Our pediatrician referred us to the hospital in St. Catharines, where they assumed she was suffering from migraines.”
When morphine proved ineffective in stopping the headaches, Mila underwent an MRI and was kept in hospital for monitoring. In the middle of the night, she stopped breathing and required an emergency tracheostomy to help her breathe. The MRI results revealed an abnormal growth in the brain.
“She had a type of cancer called medulloblastoma,” explains Mila’s father, Anthony. “The tumour was the size of a golf ball and it was pressing against her brain stem, which was causing the headaches. Learning she had cancer was the worst thing we could have imagined.”
Mila was airlifted to McMaster Children’s Hospital, where she underwent brain surgery. Six hours later, the surgical team succeeded in removing most of the tumour. Her treatment plan included intensive chemotherapy and radiation, which succeeded in shrinking the remaining cancer.
“Then one day Mila suddenly lost her ability to speak,” recalls Andrea. “She couldn’t move her right arm or leg. She couldn’t walk or even lift up her head. It was devastating.”
Mila was suffering from posterior fossa syndrome (PFS), a condition which can occur in children after brain surgery.
“It’s amazing how far Mila has come.”
– Andrea, Mila’s mother
“She’s never been one to give up,” says Anthony of his daughter. “With physiotherapy, Mila was determined to get back on her feet and back to playing sports. She worked hard and we slowly started to see gains in her strength and balance.”
Following her discharge from McMaster Children’s Hospital, Mila continued her daily exercises in the basement of their home, which was transformed into a gym to help with her recovery.
“It’s amazing how far Mila has come,” says Andrea. “Now she’s running around with her brothers, she’s back on the soccer field and she’s speaking again. We’re seeing improvements all the time and we’re celebrating her progress.”
The family is excited to see what the future holds for Mila.
“We’re so grateful to the team at McMaster Children’s Hospital for their amazing care,” says Anthony. “Please support the Foundation and help bring hope to other kids and families like us.”