A mum who thought her little boy’s behaviour changes were due to sleep deprivation, was shocked when she found out he had a deadly brain tumour.
Eight-year-old Riley Quinn became withdrawn and angry during the Covid lockdown last summer, which his mum thought was down to him spending too much time gaming and not enough time sleeping.
Mum Emily Brooke, 30, says she then tried to limit his screen time and ensure that he got plenty of rest and water.
But when his behaviour did not change and Emily noticed that Riley was rapidly losing weight, she sought medical advice and was shocked to discover that he was suffering from a fast-growing brain tumour.
Emily, from Hillsborough, Sheffield, told Yorkshire Live: “Over the summer Riley had been spending lots of time on his tablet, playing on his Nintendo DS and watching YouTube so when his sleeping patterns were disturbed and he became withdrawn and angry, we tried to limit his screen time, encouraging him to take naps and ensure he was drinking plenty of water.
“Although he did go back to school in September, he was becoming increasingly unwell and, at one stage, his appetite was so poor and he was losing so much weight, we even thought he might have an eating disorder.
“He was complaining of foul smells which meant he didn’t want to eat, or when he did manage to eat, he would be sick.”
By the time that Riley was admitted to hospital he weighed less than four stone and just days later, on December 29, the little boy underwent life-saving surgery at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital to remove a medulloblastoma brain tumour that had grown to the size of a golf ball.
The operation lasted for a staggering 14 hours and doctors were able to remove most of the tumour, but Riley was left with a condition called posterior fossa syndrome – which means that he was bed bound for more than two months and even had to re-learn how to walk and talk.
Riley is now on a 36-week course of chemotherapy to try and treat the remainder of the tumour, while also being fed via a tube.
This means that he was not able to see his new baby brother, Rory, who had been born around the same time that Riley started to become poorly.
Mum Emily added: “The year 2020 saw massive highs and lows for our family.
“Riley’s baby brother Rory was born on the first day of lockdown and although it was wonderful to have special family time together, it was marred by Riley’s increasing ill-health.”
And the family are now left with a tough road ahead, as there is a chance that Riley’s tumour could grow back.
Emily said: “His latest MRI scan was clear which is great news, but I am petrified it will come back and I hate to think we might have to go through it all again.
“Covid restrictions made things even more difficult as, when Riley was in hospital, only one of us was allowed at his bedside and no siblings could go on the ward. When the boys finally saw each other after two months apart it was magical, Riley was completed overwhelmed to see his baby brother and cried his eyes out.”
According to the charity Brain Tumour Research, medulloblastoma is a high-grade brain tumour and one of the two most commonly occurring in children, it is also a rapid-growing form of brain tumour.
Emily said: “Had it not been for the pandemic I do think that Riley may well have been seen earlier and his brain tumour would have been diagnosed sooner which is critical in a fast-growing form of the disease like his.
“The truth is we will never really know how different things might have been without Covid but I do know that precious little is known about brain tumours which kill more children than any other cancer yet, historically, this disease has been allocated just one percent of the national spend on cancer research.”
The family are now working with Brain Tumour Research to raise awareness of the impact that brain tumours such as Riley’s can have.