Says Sarah-Kate Scott (Mrs SA 2015):
When my Mark was 15 months old, I tickled him to sleep, as I did every evening.
This night was different though and would change our lives forever – this night, I felt a lump in his abdomen, as he stretched back, falling asleep.
I went cold and the first words out my mouth were, “Dear Lord, please, not a tumour!”
Still, to this day, I don’t know how I intuitively knew, but I did.
I called the local GP that evening, who told me that children’s organs grow at different accelerations during the first few years and that it was probably an enlarged liver and nothing to worry about.
I tried to sleep that night, but I couldn’t.
We were at the GP’s rooms first thing the next morning. He sent us to our paediatrician. The paediatrician told us it was not the liver, but the kidney that was enlarged and that she wanted to run some tests to determine why it was so.
I felt cold and numb…
We went to the hospital across the road and started the first of what would turn out to be many tests.
The most traumatic moment was when the nurses took Mark away from me, to sedate him for the abdominal scan. He was screaming for me as they walked away from me, with him in their arms and I fell apart as I heard his screams, when they tried to find a vein to administer the sedative.
I stood next to the machine as he lay sleeping, red laser lines reflecting off his tiny body, before the scan began. The nurses and medical staff stood in the other room watching the images come up onto their screens. There were too many. They were all looking and pointing at my son’s pictures.
When I asked them what was going on, they told me they were not allowed to tell me and that I had to take the results back to our paediatrician.
I held the envelope that would deliver the worst news any parent could ever imagine, fearfully. The drive across the road from the hospital to the paediatrician’s rooms seemed like an eternity.
My husband, Darren, met me there. Mark was still sedated. I was in complete denial that anything could be wrong and was looking forward to getting home.
Then came the words that cut like a knife… – as soon as she said the word “tumour”, I tuned out, as I reeled in shock.
Cancer Diagnosis & Denial
We needed to go for a biopsy at another hospital to determine if the tumour was cancerous or not. We were told to go to the Paediatric Oncology Ward for the biopsy.
A few days later we returned to the ward and the doctor who had performed the biopsy, told us that our son had Kidney Cancer.
There may only be one thing worse than hearing the words,”You have cancer”, and those words are,”Your child has cancer”. Darren, a cancer Survivor, has heard these words before and remained calm, as the doctor explained the procedures to follow.
I held my little baby, nearly starting to walk, on my lap, in complete denial. How could this be? He was so healthy! He was so happy! There had been no other symptoms except for the lump!
The following Monday, Mark began the first of many months of chemotherapy. The initial chemo was to shrink the tumour to make the surgery to remove the kidney easier and as the medication built up in his body, he seemed to handle it very well. But as the weeks went on, the side effects took their toll on his tiny body.
One of the most stressful moments I can remember, was of me twirling Mark’s glorious red curls as he slept, and the entire curl falling out. I sobbed my eyes out at the reality of what was happening.
The days following the removal of his kidney were also extremely stressful. Mark had never been separated from me before and operation meant that he had to recover in the ICU. I had to sleep on a chair in the hospital in the room next door, so that as soon as the heavy sedation started to wear off, he would know I was close by and not be scared.
Hospital policy stated that I was only allowed to visit during visiting hours, but the compassionate nurses knew I never went home and allowed me to spend time with him as much as possible.
We had been given a 10 week chemo treatment plan after the kidney was removed. I was gutted when we found out it had to be 27 weeks. Most of the year was spent in and out of hospitals for treatment and all the knock on effects of it.
Final Chemo Just Before 2nd Birthday
Mark’s final chemotherapy was on 7 November, just 10 days before his 2nd birthday. He smiled, as I cried with a sense of relief, glad that he would finally be able to enjoy what he should be enjoying in life.
We had a huge celebration and party for him.
My greatest Christmas present – just a few weeks later – was that Mark had eyebrows!
Raising Awareness re Warning Signs Cancer & Importance of Early Detection
As a family we are committed to raising awareness re the early warning signs of cancer, because early detection saves lives. We also started the Mark Scott Trust Fund, which helps families who experience what we did.
We were the patrons for Cupcakes for Kids with Cancer and Ambassador for the CANSA, showing Mark that he is fortunate to have parents who are well known, and that we are blessed to be a blessing, by helping others.
Mark attends many fundraising events and charity functions, so that he will be aware that life is about giving and that he will be able to continue the Trust we have started.