PARENTS thought their happy, healthy little boy had got food poisoning at school when he started vomiting in summer 2022.
Filip Kopecki, now six, first started complaining of headaches a month earlier.
His mum Oliwia Kopecka and dad Maciek at first thought their little boy – who thrived at school and loved running around with his friends – had eaten something dodgy at the cafeteria.
But Filip's vomiting started up again in June, so they decided to take him to a doctor.
While they waited for blood test results, the little boy's condition worsened, prompting his concerned parents to rush him to A&E.
Medics initially thought Filip, from Preston, was suffering from migraines – very bad headaches causing throbbing pain on one side – they did some scans, just to be sure.
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The family's worst fears came into being when Oliwia was told the next day that there was a mass in her son's brain.
To their horror, little Filip was suffering from medulloblastoma, the most common type of cancerous brain tumour in children.
Around 52 children are diagnosed with it each year in the UK.
The cancer tends to grow quickly, often spreading to other areas of the brain.
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Signs of medolloblastoma can include headaches and feeling or being sick, like Filip experienced, but they tend to be subtle and similar to those caused by other childhood illnesses, according to Cancer Research UK.
Oliwia remembered thinking about Filip's little sister Victoria when she first got the news.
"They won’t be able to play together," she thought. "She’s going to grow up without her big brother."
Filip underwent surgery to remove his brain tumour on June 10, just days after he was seen by a GP for the first time.
Signs of medulloblastoma
Medulloblastoma is the second most common brain tumour in children, according to Cancer Research UK, with 52 children diagnosed in the UK yearly.
It's most commonly diagnosed in children between the ages of three and eight, and likely to grow quickly and can spread to other areas of the brain and spinal cord.
Symptoms of the cancer can be similar to other non-serious childhood illnesses and include:
- headaches in the morning
- feeling or being sick – being sick often makes the headaches feel better
- double vision
- finding it hard to sit or stand unsupported – your child might often fall backwards
- being more fractious or irritable – it might be taking longer than usual to get your young child to settle
- loss of appetite
- behaviour changes – they might be interacting with you or their siblings less
Just a day afterwards the little to began having trouble breathing and was rushed into emergency surgery due to swelling in his brain -he'd suffered a stroke.
Some 400 children a year have strokes in the UK, according to Stroke Association.
Oliwia, 30, told the Manchester Evening News that doctors said Filip would never breathe on his own and that 'he was gone'.
“We were told many times that we needed to make a decision if we wanted to keep him alive or not. We knew we could not give up," she said.
Oliwia and Maciek, 39, decided to keep Filip's life machine on and their son defied expectations by growing stronger every day despite his ordeal.
The six-year-old will be wheelchair-bound for life because of damage caused by his stroke and he's also lost hearing in his right ear and needs to be fed through a gastronomy tube.
Oliwia said: “He is doing amazing with physiotherapy despite being tired after chemo. We are still doing daily exercises. Our goals are now smaller, like good head and hand control.
“But in the future, with intense physiotherapy, I know he will be able to do much more after he recovers from his chemotherapy treatment.
“[Doctors] said he would never be able to take a single breath by himself. Filip proved how very wrong they were and how children can be resilient. He proved how much has not been discovered in medicine regarding brain plasticity.”
The six-year-old was put on a portable ventilator after doctors a surgically created hole in his windpipe, which allowed him to them receive chemo between December 2022 and January this year.
He's now started the final round of chemo at the the paediatric high dependency unit at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, where he's been for 15 months.
Filip's parent's house isn't suitable for his needs – it needs extensive renovation for a ceiling hoist and special bath to be fitted.
Whenever he's been home, he's had to sleep in the living room.
“We are struggling a lot, of course," Oliwia added. “We have a two-year-old daughter who adores Filip with her whole heart.
“But Filip needs his rest and it’s extremely hard to sleep in the living room while a two-year-old is having fun in there.
“We just want our son to be able to come back home and have a place to rest and wash. We want our daughter to have a place to play freely without constantly being told that he needs to be quiet because her brother is tired and napping."
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The family are hoping to raise money for the home alterations Filip needs to make his life more comfortable.
Parents of little Orla Tuckwell have called called for more funding to allow research into medulloblastoma, after their little girl passed away from it.
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