Shiremoor mother warns parents to trust 'gut instinct' after 4-year-old daughter's cancer diagnosis

Sophie Hughes and Olivia Hughes-Smith
Sophia Hughes' world was turned upside down when she found out her daughter Olivia had leukaemia. Credit: NCJ Media

A Shiremoor mother has warned parents to trust their gut instinct after discovering her four-year-old daughter has leukaemia.

Sophia Hughes and Andrew Smith's world turned upside down when they received the shock diagnosis that their daugh had cancer.

Ms Hughes, 36, took their daughter, Olivia Hughes-Smith, back and forth to the doctors over of the course a week, with a gut feeling that something was wrong after she began to complain of pain in her left leg.

"Olivia was not poorly at all but said a couple of times, 'Ouch, my leg,'" Ms Hughes said.

"I thought it was growing pains but when I went to Costco with my cousin she said, 'Sophia, it looks like Olivia is limping, maybe she has got childhood arthritis?'

"I said, 'no it's just growing pains,' but when I Googled, 'growing pains in children,' it came up with leukaemia.

"I couldn't stop thinking about it all night and took her to the doctor the next day."

Olivia had pains in her leg and suffered a temperature as high as 42 degrees. Credit: NCJ Media

Doctors examined Olivia and advised the family that if problems persisted to bring her back in to arrange physiotherapy.

However, in the days that followed, Olivia suffered a temperature as high as 42 degrees, causing Ms Hughes, who is a healthcare assistant, to contact doctors again.

"I knew something was wrong with her," she said.

"Doctors said I could take her to Cramlington Hospital. There, we were told that her liver is swollen and they could feel her spleen so they ran some blood tests."

Doctors were concerned with Olivia's blood count and she was transferred to the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle.

The next day, on Saturday 13 August, the family received the devastating diagnosis that Olivia had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

Olivia has now started weekly chemotherapy on the cancer ward at the RVI.

"She is the happiest, smiliest little girl and is so well mannered," her mother said.

"It is just heartbreaking. She is the loveliest-natured little girl you could ever meet.

"She is coping with it all so well. I am so proud of her."

Olivia has now started weekly chemotherapy on the cancer ward at the RVI. Credit: NCJ Media

With treatment expected to last more than two years, the family faces a long road ahead but said they are grateful that Olivia's cancer was caught so soon.

Ms Hughes said: "We were meant to be going to Florida but if we had gone we never would have gone back to the doctors and got that diagnosis [so soon].

"It's crazy how it has all happened."

In an urgent message to other parents, Ms Hughes urged them not to ignore their "gut instinct" if they have any concerns about their children's health.

"I want to share Olivia's story to raise awareness," she said. "It is so rare you don't think it's going to happen to you."

Ms Hughes continued: "I would say to other parents that if they have a gut instinct something is wrong with their child to go and get it checked and that sometimes it is worth asking for a second opinion."

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