'If I had listened to the doctors, my baby would be dead'
TICHRA Papdi knew something was wrong when her newborn baby Ashton wouldn't stop crying.
"Nothing would soothe him," Tichra tells Kidspot.
"He cried 10 times more than a usual baby. Even friends and family said something was wrong."
However, when Tichra went to her usual doctor, he claimed baby Ashton was simply being whingy and would grow out of it. But Tichra persevered, requesting tests and ultrasounds to find out what was wrong.
Her doctor declined because "he was happy with how Ashton was and how his stomach felt".
Tichra wouldn't take no for an answer, and saw up to seven different doctors - who all thought he was simply constipated, and had a "perfectly fine" stomach.
Tichra knew it wasn't so simple - his cry was completely different to a normal baby's cry, and he was so clearly uncomfortable, curled up in pain.
"He kept waking up on my chest and screaming and pushing," Tichra said.
Ashton's symptoms worsened. In the space of just two hours, Tichra changed seven dirty nappies. When she realised it had been a few hours since he'd urinated, she took him straight to the hospital. After some tests, they were sent home. But at 2am, only an hour later, Ashton worsened again - so she took him to the children's hospital.
It was only when ultrasounds were done - the very test Tichra had begged numerous doctors, numerous times to do - that the true problem was found: Ashton had a tumour behind his bladder.
An MRI scan showed the full extent of his condition.
Ashton, at only seven months old, was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
"I couldn't feel anything. I was numb," the 21-year-old single mum-of-two said. Numb, and furious.
"I couldn't go to my local doctor because I was furious, I was scared I would go off my head at him and not be able to control myself."
"It pissed me off big time that they didn't listen to me."
"I knew something was wrong, and no one listened."
On May 18 this year, Ashton began chemotherapy.
One minute, he can be doing great - and next, he can have a 40 degree temperature with shakes and vomiting.
One day, things got worse. Ashton's eyes were sunken in. He was unresponsive.
"I thought he was going to die," Tichra confessed. "He looked like a totally different baby."
The cause of Ashton's extra battle was found: he had three bugs, and thankfully overcame them.
Ashton has had a nasal tube in several times - but the curious baby usually ends up pulling it out, causing him to scream. He's also had a CVI into his heart, and has been put under general anaesthetic at least 10 times for MRIs and surgeries.
Ashton is also underweight. Babies his age are usually around 10kg, but Ashton only tips the scales at a tiny 7.8kg, struggling to get over the 8kg mark. He needs to gain weight before surgeons attempt to remove the tumour, or they fear he might not make it through recovery.
Ashton, now 11-months old, is in week 17 of his 42 required weeks of chemo - and it all takes an incredible toll on their little family.
"It's so hard not to break and crack every day," Tichra said.
"It was especially hard when I still have to be strong for my other boy."
"It kills me."
"He hates that Ashton is in pain. He always says, 'Ashy ouchy' and kisses the lines on Ashton's chest."
"He's so naughty and doesn't listen. But in the end he's so loving towards his brother."
Their average day consists of waking up and going straight to hospital - sometimes five days a week for hours at a time - before coming home to bathe, feed and put the boys to sleep, before cleaning the house.
"It drains me so much," Tichra said.
"And I hate not being able to be as close to my three-year-old anymore, because so much time goes into bub now."
Ashton's cancer has also put a strain on the family's finances, too. Because Tichra is a single mother, she spends all her time looking after her two sons - an act made even more difficult when one is very, very sick - she has no time to work, and relies on benefits, which don't stretch anywhere near as far as they need to.
Raising kids is already an expensive feat on your own without the added stress of cancer - particularly when Ashton needs his nappy changed up to 15 times a day when he has chemo. All of Tichra's income goes towards her son's care, medicine and petrol (which costs over $100 alone each week). To top it off, Tichra's car is falling apart, and desperately needs a service and new tyres to care for her children.
"I feel like a failure," she confided.
Thankfully, the tumour is shrinking - and Tichra hopes for the best. But cancer is hard enough: Ashton's family shouldn't have to be stressed about finances; they should be able to focus entirely on a baby boy battling his best.
To help support Ashton and his family, you can donate to their GoFundMe Page.
This originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished with permission.