IT took almost six months for doctors to decide toddler Lily Vidler had cancer.
So many of her symptoms had been mistaken for those of common childhood illnesses.
It was August before they found Lily, who is now almost two, had a tumour embedded in her stomach and attached to her spine – a condition known as neuroblastoma.
Her first visit to the doctors had been in March, but as is common with most cases of neuroblastoma, a diagnosis was hard to pinpoint.
The first symptoms were vague – tiredness, loss of appetite and pain in the bones.
Parents Vicki and Steve Vidler were twice told she had an ear infection. Then Southend Hospital’s A&E department told them it was a recurring viral infection, affecting her joints.
When Lily developed a limp, the couple went to private clinic – and were told it could be juvenile arthritis.
However, an ultrasound scan eventually revealed a tumour pressing on her leg muscle, was the cause of the limp and and the joint pain.
Vicki’s sister, Emma Ambrose, who lives in the same street as the Vidlers, High Mead, Rayleigh, said: “At first, we all put it down to teething pains.
Then my sister was told it was an ear infection and they were given antibiotics.
“Lily seemed to get worse.
"When she stopped talking and walking and started crawling again, Vicki took her to casualty, where they put it down to a viral infection.
“In July we had a family holiday in Spain and Lily was ill out there, and limping.
“Seeing her next to my daughter, who is only two weeks older, we knew something was seriously wrong.
“The diagnosis was a hell of a shock. Only 100 children get it a year in the UK, and we never dreamed our Lily would be one of those. You have more chance of winning the lottery.”
Lily is now in the middle of her third course of chemotherapy at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London. The aim is to harden the tar-like tumour sitting between her vertebrae, so it can be surgically removed.
A month later a more surgery will then remove the tumour from her stomach, probably in December or January.
Mrs Ambrose said: “Lily has been brilliant, totally amazing.
"She has been quite isolated because of the chemo.
“She can’t risk catching any colds, but she is so resiliant and doesn’t have any concept of what is happening.
“She hasn’t lost her hair yet, and is eating well despite us being warned she might need tube-feeding.
“She still has her personality shining through.
“Her brother, Connor, who is nine and sister Izzy, six, have both been great, too, as it obviously has an impact on them, too.”
Dr Thilani Ranasinghe, Southend Hospital’s leading consultant in paediatric oncology, said: “It’s hard to make a diagnosis in the early stages because of the vague symptoms.”
*LILY Vidler’s relatives and friends have started a fundraising drive called Lily’s Legend, in aid of the Neuroblastoma Society.
Vicki’s parents, her aunt and uncle, Emma and Matt Ambrose, her grandparents, along with about 200 supporters from the Rayleigh area
are planning to run the Brentwood half marathon in March for the charity.
Mrs Ambrose said: “We wanted to do something to keep positive.
“A lot of friends and people in the Essex Boot Camp organisation are
taking part, which is great.
“We really want to raise awareness of neuroblastoma, because if it was not for the private healthcare Vicki and Steve had through their work, Lily might not have been diagnosed.
“Even if it helps one child to be diagnosed by people checking out the
symptoms, it’ll be worth it.”
To sponsor them visit justgiving.com/lilyslegends1