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A smiley little angel’s struggle for life – the story of three-year-old Liza

In August 2011, this little girl, 13 months old at the time, began to suffer fits of vomiting and nothing helped with them. She became so weak that she had to be put on an infusion. Despite those treatments, however, the little girl still got worse, finally losing consciousness. An MRI scan showed that she had a tumor in her brain.

The physical condition of the little girl was so bad, there was little prospect of a life-saving operation, but doctors had no other option. The tumor was so large that it was an immediate threat to Liza’s life. But a determined and highly trained team of doctors completed an operation lasting over five hours and they succeeded in removing the aggressive tumor. The parents, shattered, awaited news of their child, whose life hung in the balance.

The success of the operation already seemed a miracle to the family, but while little girl’s slow but steady recovery was nothing short of a dream come true. But the histology results brought bad news again. The tumor was one of the most aggressive kinds, capable of growing 2 to 3 centimeters a week if untreated.

Liza received the most severe form of chemotherapy available to fight the tumor. But she could only take it for a month and a half before getting sepsis. Her circulation collapsed and 80% of her intestines began to necrotize. The little girl needed another life-saving operation. A part of her intestine had to be opened through her abdominal wall: she received a stoma. Her circulation remained on the border of collapse, and excessive clotting also occurred.

Liza was fighting for her life again. She spent a month in intensive care before she began to recover. Another abdominal operation eliminated the stoma and the section of intestine was restored before treatment was continued. In May 2012, after six months in hospital and several skirmishes with death, Liza, weary but still smiling, was allowed to leave. There was no perceptible sign of the brain tumor.

After three months of growth, there was another setback. In August 2012, another tumor was found in Liza’s brain. Although it is very dangerous and there are potential long-term negative effects at such an early age, there was nothing else left to do: Liza received radiotherapy daily with anesthesia. Through a head port, she also received targeted chemotherapy into the area of her brain with the tumor.

The treatments were completed last December, when Liza was free of symptoms once more. Although at present there is no evidence of a tumor, the family still cannot sigh with relief. As a result of the drastic brain surgery, Liza is suffering severe epileptic attacks, several times a day. In the long term, that can have severe consequences for the little girl’s neurological development. The drug she is currently taking for the fits doesn’t seem to work, but there are some other ones yet to be tried, and hopefully, they will alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy. Medically, Liza can be considered to have been cured of the brain tumor if she remains free of symptoms until the age of 10. For the time being, she will receive regular MRI scans to monitor for any changes.

Despite all that she has been through, Liza is still a very intelligent, cheerful and beautiful little girl. When we visited her, she was very friendly and smiled and giggled a lot with us. She loves to watch cartoons and to play with her favorite furry toys. She rewarded our friendly advances with good cheer and an angelic smile.

We must be patient now. Liza has made it through a lot, she has had 8 operations in the last 11 months, so I’m sure she’ll come through this time, too. But still, we are deeply worried that we may lose our treasure…”, said the little girl’s mother. “We gain a lot of strength from the stories of other families who have made it through such an illness. We need to strengthen our hearts, our souls, as we must accompany and support Liza every step of the way.”

We wish you much love and tenacity, we hope you recover soon, and that even while still walking along the path to help, you will find moments of joy, little Liza!

Liza has been participating in our family support program.