Girl’s crooked smile hid sinister truth
THE parents of a four-year-old girl have shared their devastating news with the world - what they believed was their daughter's crooked smile has turned out to be a life-threatening brain tumour.
Emily Hunt lives in the Southern Highlands of NSW with her parents, Jonathan and Deborah and her two older siblings Eddie, 9, and Abi, 12.
Jono and Deb first took their youngest daughter to a doctor after Christmas when they noticed she was having trouble smiling for photographs.
They told 9 Honey their little girl wasn't able to smile properly, something they first thought was just in their heads but soon became more pronounced over time.
"We were noticing as we were taking photos that Emily wasn't smiling with both sides of her mouth," Deb told the website.
"We kept saying, 'Big smiles, big smiles', but it was like there was a stroke on the right side of her face."
Over the next few weeks, Emily began struggling to close her right eye.
The family's GP believed she had contracted a treatable form of facial paralysis known as Bell's palsy.
But as the days went on, more testing revealed the couple's young daughter was suffering from something much more sinister.
Emily had several MRI scans at the beginning of the month that revealed she had a growth on her brain.
Although the couple was initially told Emily's brain tumour was "likely benign" and easy to remove, more testing last week discovered a spot on her spine.
This may have been placing pressure on Emily's nerves and impacting her smile.
Doctors at the The Children's Hospital at Westmead arranged emergency surgery to remove the tumour from her brain.
While in surgery, the team also found the reason for Emily's crooked smile was a rare form of cancer that had spread from her spine to the nerves on her face.
The cancer, known as atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumour (ATRT), has a low survival rate.
From lumbar punctures and subcutaneous cannulas to chemotherapy, Emily has suffered painful surgeries and testing, but her family says her battle has only just begun.
A Go Fund Me page, established to help fund Emily's treatment, says the little girl will likely spend the next year in hospital undergoing treatment.
The page has already raised more than $55,700 of its $100,000 goal.
"She has already undergone surgery to remove the brain tumour and now will be given intensive chemotherapy treatment weekly, radiotherapy and treatment directly into the brain," the page said.
Emily's family reported that her first round of chemotherapy this month was a difficult process.
"She has been quite nauseous, lethargic and isn't currently eating," her family wrote on her Facebook group Emily's Army.
"It's tough watching her go through so much, but then she gives you a little smile, and it reminds you she's one tough cookie."
The Hunt family has recently been accepted into Ronald McDonald House while she undergoes treatment and has still found time to celebrate special occasions together, like her brother Eddie's ninth birthday.
To donate to Emily's treatment, visit her Go Fund Me page.