The mother of a tot diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour has said "it felt like the end of the world" when medical professionals revealed her daughter had only 12 months to live.
Three-year-old Aria Hodgkiss was diagnosed with the condition diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) on the day of her third birthday which fell on May 4, 2020.
The Wrexham toddler's parents, Melanie and Carl, were informed that day that their precious daughter may not live beyond her fourth birthday as she only has between nine and twelve months left, reports North Wales Live.
The heartbreaking news caused her mother to search the internet for other remedies that could potentially prolong her daughter's life for as long as possible.
The 40-year-old mum, who now acts as Aria's full-time carer, discovered a drug entitled ONC201, which she says is not currently available through the NHS and has to be bought from Germany where it has been trialled.
Unfortunately for the Wrexham family, the drug is very expensive and in response, Aria's old child minder, Vicky Roberts, recently set up an online fundraiser that has so far raised close to £22,000 to pay for the treatment.
"There is no cure for Aria's condition," Melanie said.
"Once you hear the word terminal, there's not much that can be done but the hope is that this new medication she is receiving may be able to prolong her life.
"We're taking it day-by-day at this stage and we're realistic about the situation.
"She's doing brilliantly at the moment and as long as she's happy and not in any pain we want to extend her life for as long as possible, naturally."
Aria, whose favourite hobbies include painting and playing with other children, has been taking the drug for around 15 weeks and is "like any three-year-old in most respects" and does not suffer any pain or discomfort as a result of her tumour.
She has a daily regime of medication and has undergone radiotherapy. The hope, Melanie says, is that the tumour will shrink or stay the same size by the time she undergoes her next scan in January.
"Some days I'm just in bits," said Melanie, "but I don't cry in front of Aria because I don't want to upset her.
"She doesn't know that there's anything wrong.
"Her medication regime is the norm for her and she views going to the hospital as a day out. If she asks about her situation we will tell her in a way she will understand, but at the moment it's just about making sure that she's a happy three-year-old, which she is."
Aria has three older siblings, aged 14-19, who "cherish her and wrap her in cotton wool", says Melanie who describes her youngest as "cheeky" and with a "dry sense of humour for a three-year-old".
The past five months have been "like living in a nightmare" for the family. Melanie says that she and her husband, Carl, barely sleep in fear of something happening overnight.
"The worst moment was when the doctor at Alder Hey told us that Aria only has around 12 months left to live.
"I'd seen the scans beforehand and had done a lot of research online so it wasn't a complete shock, but hearing that was life-changing," she said.
"We're approaching it on a daily basis and we all just want to make the most of time we have with Aria. I'm incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported us in making sure that she's with us for as long as possible."
You can visit Aria's Go Fund Me page here.
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