A run-of-the-mill runny nose turned out to be a rare cancer for one young survivor.
At just 7 months old, Mia was showing symptoms of a common cold, which didn’t concern mom Anjna Caulton at first.
But what began as typical sick kid symptoms ended in a blood cancer diagnosis that affects fewer than 100 children in the US each year.
It wasn’t until Caulton, now 44, noticed more severe changes in her daughter’s condition that she began to worry, the South Staffordshire resident of the UK told NeedToKnow.online, according to Jam Press.
“Mia had just started nursery and she was suffering from a runny nose, was very blocked up and had a feverish temperature,” she recalled. “When I look back during that period, she was particularly cranky. She cried a lot and took so much settling.”
Caulton said that while she was “unsettled” by Mia’s persistent symptoms, she was “assured” by family and friends that the child’s immune system was still developing and still susceptible to bugs going around the daycare center.
“Little did I know it was in fact her immune system in serious trouble,” she said.
Mia soon developed a lump over her ribs on the right side of her body — which Caulton and husband, Simon, thought might just be an insect bite.
Then, widespread “bruising” set in all over Mia’s arms and legs. The panicked parent even initially blamed herself.
“I wondered if I was really stressed and I was holding her too hard whilst changing her nappy, or whether these were from her nursery,” Caulton confessed. “Hundreds of terrible thoughts were going through my mind.”
By the time Mia saw a medical specialist, she’d grown pale and also developed tiny red welts all over her body. “It was at this point after the third [family doctor] visit, she was referred to hospital, who immediately took us into isolation,” recalled Caulton.
Two weeks of testing revealed Mia’s diagnosis was infantile acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) – a rare cancer of the blood and bone marrow that occurs annually in an estimated 90 children in the US, all aged younger than one year, according to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Signs of ALL include unexplained fever and bruising, as well as swollen lymph nodes.
“It was the scariest and most uncertain time of my life,” said Caulton, whose daughter was made to undergo a grueling battery of cancer treatments and procedures, including chemotherapy, blood transfusions, spinal taps and bone marrow operations.
“Every parent brings their child into the world with the expectation they will outlive you; this diagnosis completely threw out this natural order to life,” said Caulton, who left her day job to care for Mia — as did Simon. “It was a life-changing period.”
As Mia fought for her life, her parents fought to fill it with “as much positivity as possible,” Caulton said. “She hit some incredible milestones all during treatment, such as taking her first steps, her first birthday, her first words, Christmas and New Year.”
Mia underwent 18 months of daily cancer therapy. In March 2020 — three years to the date of her diagnosis — doctors delivered the good news that her illness was in remission.
The Caultons paid many thanks to the Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Blood Cancer UK, which supported Mia. Now, they’re paying it forward — by bringing greater attention to a fundraising initiative for cancer research.
A prize drawing, conducted by philanthropy platform Omaze, will see a 4,200-square-foot home in Cornwall worth £3 million (about $6.25 million), plus an added £50,000 cash (about $62,478) to furnish, go to the lucky holder of a £10 ($12.50) winning ticket. Blood Cancer UK hopes to garner at least £500,000 ($624,785) to aid future efforts.
“The care and support of Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Blood Cancer UK has given us the greatest gift imaginable — being able to watch our beautiful daughter grow up and enjoy being a child,” said Caulton.