Scarlette Douglas on hearing Jonnie Irwin's cancer diagnosis
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The mother of an eight-year-old girl has said there were no “warning signs” before she was diagnosed with cancer. Illiana Anastasi was diagnosed with a brain tumour after her health took a turn towards the end of 2021. Illiana has an underlying health condition meaning she is more vulnerable to infections but her mother Natasha Anastasi said she was doing everything like normal.
She had regular eye checkups as part of her health checks and it was at a check-up in August 2021 that she was referred to have an MRI.
Natasha told MyLondon: “She was fit, healthy, doing well at school and had no known signs of any illness. There had been no red flags. There were no underlying signs at all. Looking back she had a slight squint in one eye but as she had been wearing glasses for many years and having three to six monthly checks I had no reason to believe everything wasn’t OK.
“We went to the eye clinic which we were under and they said they weren’t happy with her vision and that it should be better than it was considering she had been wearing glasses for a while. They then referred us to the hospital for an MRI ‘to rule things out’, but obviously it didn’t – it just confirmed there was an issue.”
There are a number of symptoms associated with the tumour such as flickering eyes, worsening visions, squinting, and double vision, but Illiana reportedly showed none of those. She was attending school like normal but the fact her vision wasn’t getting better was a sign and it was later confirmed she had the tumour growing.
Natasha said: “The diagnosis has been a rollercoaster for the family. I and Iliana are very close. She misses me when I’m not near and wants me next to her all of the time. It has put a huge amount of pressure on us as a family – whether it be financially, mentally or physically. The diagnosis has also been hard for our other two children who have had their life turned upside down in so many ways.
“She started treatment in February this year. It was harsh and unbearable for her. Iliana lost 5kg in a few months and all of her hair. There was a never-ending list of side effects and reactions including fevers, temperature spikes, sickness, jaw pain, ulcers, loss of appetite, emergency admissions to the hospital, lethargy, and fatigue. It was traumatic and the days were long, hard and full of tears.”
In June, Illiana sadly suffered an anaphylactic reaction to the chemo which meant she had to switch to another type. Thankfully, her new treatment has taken to her and she has been able to return to school and live her life.
Natasha added: “The new protocol is being kind to her and she is able to go to school most days and just takes anti-sickness tablets for a few days. She eats well and only has a few aches and pains alongside some tiredness.
“We like to make the most of every day, spending time together and going on day trips or adventures when we can. We would love to go on a big holiday when the treatment is finished.
“Iliana is my absolute idol. She has adapted to the change in life, routine, appearance and priorities incredibly well and with such maturity. She deals with medical professions with ease and asks all the questions she needs to feel comfortable. I am so proud and she makes me smile every single day.”
Illiana got the chance of a lifetime to see Ed Sheeran thanks to the Dragonfly Cancer Trust something she described as the “best night of her life and didn’t want to end”.
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Illiana and her family will be taking part in Great Christmas Raffle as they try to raise funds and awareness for the vital work. The Great Christmas Raffle in partnership with Raffolux opened on November 1st and will close on December 31st.
The draw will be held in early January and you can win a range of prizes.
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