A British mother is on a mission to raise awareness of a rare cancer after her 3-year-old daughter was misdiagnosed with constipation earlier this year and died a month later, Essex Live reports.
In June, Eilish Flanagan, of Rayleigh, brought her daughter Aoife Flanagan-Gibbs to a doctor after the toddler experienced pain in her stomach, along with other parts of her body. The mother was told that her girl was simply suffering from constipation, despite the fact that Aoife also had a visible tumor on her bottom.
"I took her to see the [general practitioner] or a consultant doctor 11 times in three weeks," Flanagan said. "She'd been in and out of [the] hospital with different infections and problems, but they kept telling us she had common child constipation."
At one point, doctors even accused the mother of not feeding her daughter properly, according to Essex Live. When Flanagan continued to press them about her worries, they allegedly dismissed her.
"As a mother, I knew there was something else wrong," she said. "I raised my concerns and she had pains in other areas of her body but the doctors never examined her. She had a tumor on her bottom, but they failed to investigate it."
While waiting to be transferred to a different hospital, Flanagan said the family received an X-ray scan that revealed a tumor in another part of Aoife's body.
"She had a huge tumor in her liver blocking her bowel," the mother said. "When we were waiting to be transferred to [that hospital], we were shown an X-ray, and you could see the diseases and tumors. We were aware it was in her liver and we knew we were in a bad situation."
Doctors at the second hospital discovered that the toddler, in fact, had germ cell cancer — a disease caused by a malignant tumor (normally found in the ovary or testis) that only accounts for about 3 percent of childhood cancer registrations in the United Kingdom, according to Children with Cancer UK. Though the organization notes that the overall survival rate for children with germ cell tumors is 93 percent, Flanagan said doctors unfortunately diagnosed her daughter too late. Aoife died on July 7, just five days after her diagnosis was confirmed.
"It was completely unexpected, she had a huge cardiac arrest," her mother said. "I held her because I knew something was wrong with her. She died in my arms."
Flanagan, who eventually donated her daughter's organs, tissues and tumors for research, has since worked on setting up Aoife's Bubbles, a charity that educates others about the effects of germ cell cancer and supports those with the disease, through a GoFundMe campaign.
"She was very much a wild child," Flanagan said of her daughter. "She loved her pony, Bubbles, where the charity gets its name."
News of Aoife's death comes less than a month after another 3-year-old British girl was similarly misdiagnosed with constipation. The toddler in that case also died from a germ cell tumor.