Mother puts own cancer treatment on hold for sick son

SELFLESS SUPPORT: Riley Davidson underwent surgery to remove a golf-sized mass from his brain.
SELFLESS SUPPORT: Riley Davidson underwent surgery to remove a golf-sized mass from his brain. Supplied

WHEN  Imogene Davidson was diagnosed with breast cancer at 30, she never could have guessed the worst was yet to come.

Just weeks later it was revealed son Riley had a golf ball-sized mass growing on his brain.

A routine optometrist appointment was the first sign anything was seriously wrong with the bright 10-year-old Onekawa School student.

He had been suffering the odd "little headache" which Ms Davidson thought may have been due to problems with his vision.

"We went to Spec Savers in Napier two weeks ago, she did some tests that showed he had inflamed nerves behind his eyes, which is not normal for a kid," Ms Davidson says.

They saw an ophthalmologist at Hawke's Bay Hospital the following day, which resulted in a referral to the pediatric department for an MRI scan last Tuesday.

"We were there at 6.30am, by 11am the doctor called me in and said Riley had a mass growing in his cerebellum at the back of his brain - we were on a plane to Starship by 1pm that afternoon."

The 10-year-old underwent seven-hour surgery at Starship Hospital in Auckland on Thursday - the same date Ms Davidson was scheduled to meet a specialist to discuss her own treatment options back in Hawke's Bay.

Needless to say those plans were put on hold.

A photo of Ms Davidson cuddling a smiling Riley in his hospital bed four days after surgery reveals little of the stress and pain the past week has brought.

"He's doing amazing, he's doing so well, he's never really been sick before so he's coping well ... luckily the mass wasn't trying to spread."

An MRI scan taken after the operation showed surgeons had been able to remove the entire mass, but doctors could not yet say for sure if the tumour was malignant. Those results would hopefully be available by the end of the week.

"The part of the brain they operated on, it's got a lot to do with balance so he's very wobbly - it's very, very, very slow steps."

Children from Riley's class at school showed support by filming a video and posting it on YouTube, while a mutual friend of Ms Davidson's had organised for a package of Lego to be sent from Toy World.

Staff at the Ronald McDonald House where Ms Davidson was staying had been "incredible" and extremely helpful.

"It's something you realise when you're up here that there are lots of things they could benefit from, it's a really great cause."

Love and support from friends and family back home had been invaluable, while a network of her own mother, aunt, partner James and Riley's paternal grandmother "gan gan" kept her going in Auckland.

Ms Davidson discovered the lump on her breast about two months ago and was advised by her mother, who had been through the breast-cancer journey, to have it checked out by a doctor.

Further tests revealed it was cancerous, though non-aggressive and in the early stages. She got the news about three weeks ago.

"That's why they were not too concerned about pushing back my appointments ... there's some positives, I think I will have surgery, but I'm not sure how extensive it will be - if I will have a mastectomy or they will just take the lump out.

"I will probably have radiotherapy, but I might be able to avoid chemotherapy."

A Givealittle page was set up by Ms Davidson's long-time friend Lauren Moore to help with travel expenses, post-operative care for Riley and her breast cancer treatment. It would also be used for accommodation and general living costs.

"It's all happened so fast from two weeks ago when he went for an eye test and then the MRI ... Riley has been so brave and so strong, we are overwhelmed by his resilience."

Davidsons' diary

First week of March
Imogene Davidson, 30, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Tuesday March 10

Son Riley, 10, had an optometrist appointment at Spec Savers in Napier where it was revealed he had inflamed nerves behind the eyes.

Tuesday March 17
Riley had an MRI scan at Hawke's Bay Hospital that showed a golf ball-sized mass growing on his brain. He was send to Starship Hospital in Auckland the same day

Thursday, March 19

Surgeons at Starship spent seven hours removing the tumour.

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