Modderfontein parents highlight childhood cancer awareness

Following an initiative to create awareness and support around childhood brain cancer, the NEWS met with Zara Lowe’s parents to learn more about the early warning signs of childhood cancer.

Held in Edenvale, the initiative was organized by friends and family of the Lowe family to raise awareness about childhood brain cancer.

Held on July 25, it saw community members walk a distance of three miles through Edenvale while following Covid-19 regulations.

Zara’s parents and residents of Modderfontein, Simone and Michael, described the awareness initiative as a success.

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At the age of 19 months, a tumor was located in Zara’s brain, specifically her posterior fossa.

After a successful six-hour surgery in April, the 4.5 cm tumor was removed.

The tumor was identified as an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor, a fast-growing and recurrent tumor found in less than 10% of children with brain cancer.

After undergoing multiple medical procedures for the placement of her shunt, Zara is now a happy, bubbly and curious child of 22 months old.

In June she started chemotherapy at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Center, her protocol is nine courses of chemotherapy with four to six weeks of radiation.

Zara will need about nine months of treatment, depending on the effects of the chemotherapy and the recovery period between rounds.

Her parents said she is responding well to the treatment.

“It is a blessing that she is so small. We hope she won’t remember most of what she’s been through,” said Simone.

She said that when it comes to heeding the warning signs, it’s best to trust your parental instincts.

Simone said that leading up to the tumor’s discovery, Zara showed very few warning signs.

Michael said that one of the only warning signs Zara showed were balance problems and torticollis (tilting the head to the side).

Simone explained that as the tumor grew, it took up available space in Zara’s skull and put pressure on her brain.

The couple encouraged parents to always seek a second opinion if they are not satisfied with the initial diagnosis.

Childhood cancer warning signs they gave included:
• An unusual lump or swelling
• Unexplained paleness and loss of energy
• Easy bruising or bleeding
• Persistent pain in one part of the body
• limp
• Unexplained fever or illness that won’t go away
• Frequent headache, accompanied by vomiting
• Excessive fatigue
• Sudden changes in vision
• Balance problems
• Lack of appetite
• Sudden weight loss

Brain tumor warning signs the Lowe’s provided included:
• A fuller soft spot (fontanelle) on the skull in babies
• Seizures
• Abnormal eye movement
• Slurred Speech
• Difficulty swallowing
• Loss of appetite
• Difficulty with balance
• Difficulty walking
• Weakness or loss of sensation in an arm or leg
• Weakness or drooping on one side of the face
• Confusion, irritability
• Memory problems
• Personality or behavior changes
• Hearing problems
• Torticollis

While Michael and Simone never thought they would face this situation, they said they met great people along the way.

“You bond with people you don’t know about, but have something in common with,” says Michael.

In addition to paying attention to the warning signs, Simone called on community members to donate more blood to the SANBS.

She emphasized that blood donations are used during transfusions after chemotherapy and other cancer-related treatments.

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