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Support Little Big Steps this EOFY

When 11-year-old Bridgette came home early one morning after vomiting at a sleepover, mum Kristie put it down to a tummy bug. But other symptoms soon started to pile up. Bridgette started waking up in the morning with headaches. Then about a week later, she told her mum, “I can see two of the same horse in the distance.” 

Kristie took Bridgette to the GP for blood tests and an MRI. While waiting for the results, they also went to the optometrist, suspecting a vision problem may be the cause of Bridgette’s symptoms, but the optometrist noticed something was seriously wrong. “You need to get her to hospital urgently,” Kristie remembers him saying. “She’s got severe swelling on both her optic nerves and a little bit of a bleed.” 

Within a matter of days, Bridgette had been transferred from Wollongong to Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, for a craniotomy to remove a tumour the size of a golf ball from her brain. Thankfully, doctors were able to remove 99% of the growth. But Bridgette’s journey was only just beginning. 

 Bridgette was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive brain cancer called an Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumour (ATRT), which was highly unusual in a child her age. Within days, the family had relocated from their home in Dapto to Sydney for treatment. Bridgette began a treatment protocol at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, that included 60 weeks of chemotherapy and six weeks of intensive radiotherapy on her brain and spine. 

Bridgette’s treatment journey was challenging for the once-active teenager. She often felt nauseous and exhausted and soon needed a wheelchair to get around. Radiation therapy was draining on her body, but Kristie said the team at the Hospital were a vital source of comfort, strength and encouragement when she needed it. In August 2022, Bridgette got to ring the end-of-treatment bell, marking the end of her cancer treatment.  

But Bridgette’s battle wasn’t over yet. After losing the ability to walk independently, she required intensive rehabilitation to help her learn to walk again. The next 12 months included physiotherapy twice a day, hydrotherapy and occupational therapy at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, to help get Bridgette back on her feet. 

Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in restoring mobility and strength for children post-cancer treatment, aiding their journey back to an active and fulfilling life. Through tailored exercises and rehabilitation strategies, physiotherapists provide vital support, fostering physical resilience and enhancing overall well-being in young cancer survivors.   

 While Bridgette’s journey is ongoing and she will continue with physiotherapy to support her throughout her recovery, she has come so far from the end of treatment where she couldn’t walk unassisted, to today where she can walk down the halls of her home, run around with her pets and ride her bike with her family.  

 “We wouldn’t have got through her treatment as well as we did if we didn’t have the support and the care from the doctors, nurses, and therapists.” 

 “Thank you, Little Big Steps, for supporting vital oncology physiotherapy at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick.” – Kristie, Bridgette’s Mum.