A heartbroken family has recalled the moment their life turned upside down after learning of their toddler's life-threatening disease. At just 19 months old, Raya Pyke is "in for the battle of her life" according to her parents Matthew and Abbe, who two weeks ago learned their daughter had a rare stage-4 germ cell cancer.
This type of cancer is rare in children Raya's age and is more commonly found in teenagers. Germ cell tumours are growths of cells that form in the ovaries or testicles and are usually activated later in life — but can remain benign. Although, in Raya's case it's malignant.
The couple from Port Augusta, South Australia, noticed "something wasn't right" with Raya earlier this month. "We thought it was like an attitude change. She was grumpy, didn't want to walk as much anymore, wanted to be held, would only really not scream if she was laying on the floor," they told Yahoo News Australia.
Devastating news turns family's life upside down
Within weeks, an MRI revealed a large tumour on her spine, ultimately limiting all movement in the lower half of her body. Her little body is now riddled with tumours — having started on her ovaries — that have spread and grown in size, and due to their location, have been deemed inoperable.
"It's a weird emotion because you always think it doesn't happen to you. It was more shock. She's not even two years old yet," Mathew said of the moment they received her diagnosis. "We pretty much have to learn how to live again and Raya has new needs," he continued. "She's very prone to infection so we have to be careful where we go with her."
To make matters worse, the family has been separated and will likely be "for a fairly long time" because they've had to uproot their lives and move to Adelaide for treatment. They've been put up in a house by the Childhood Cancer Association, but their other daughter Eve, two-and-a-half, remains at home with her grandparents — some four hours away.
Toddler loses all feeling below her waist
Little Raya has already completed one round of chemotherapy which has, thankfully, helped reduce the size of the tumours. "She is an absolute trooper. She doesn't have a whole lot of feeling below her waist, so that's a bit of a challenge," Matthew said.
Family remain positive about future
The family were told "things are looking good" at the moment but admitted "it's still very early days", so anything can happen. While their life has been put on hold, unfortunately, their household bills have not. Abbe has had to stop work to care for their daughter while Matthew, who works as a truck driver, is forced to spend much of his time away.
Mathew's parents have set up a GoFundMe page in a bid to help the family financially. So far they've raised over $22,000, about half of their goal. The parents say it's incredibly difficult to watch as their daughter moves in and out of hospital. But they remain positive that their toddler will make a full recovery.
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