By Liana Jacob
THIS BRAVE two-year-old girl has had to fight for her life after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer and has been receiving aggressive treatment including chemotherapy but is beating her fifty-fifty odds.
Stay-at-home-mum and housewife, Bianca Langtree (27), from California, and her British husband, Mark (32), from Dorset, UK, were given devastating news that their 15-month-old daughter Harlow had ovarian cancer. This is a cancer of the ovaries which mainly affects women who have been through menopause (usually over the age of 50).
In April 2016, before her diagnosis, Bianca and Mark noticed there was something not right about Harlow’s health; her appetite decreased, she threw up regularly and she was clingy more than usual and wanted to be held a lot.
Initially they believed she had caught a bug or ear infection, but when the doctors referred her to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), they had a feeling something was very wrong. Bianca was four-months pregnant with their youngest daughter, Sienna (11-months-old), when Harlow was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
An x-ray showed that Harlow had a tumour and had to undergo major surgery to remove the tumour which had also taken over her left ovary. They had to take preventative measures including removing her appendix.
Bianca and Mark decided to wait until Harlow completed her first round of chemotherapy before they broke the news to people outside their immediate family.
Her rigorous fight against cancer is paying off and she is now a smiley two-year-old girl, while her doting parents are making an effort to make every day special for the family.
“When you hear a doctor tell you your child has a fifty-fifty chance of surviving and being told your daughter would undergo a very rigorous and intense chemotherapy was scary,” Bianca said.
“We first started noticing things weren’t right in April of 2016. Harlow was fifteen-months-old, and I was twenty-five. Harlow wasn’t being herself and was very clingy.
“She had a lack of appetite, random throwing up, and wanted to be held rather than run around. That’s when we noticed something wasn’t right.
“We took her to the paediatrician the next day and that is when he sent us to CHOC. When Harlow first started to show signs of sickness, we originally thought it was a stomach bug or ear infection; a common thing in any toddler.
“So, when we were sent to CHOC and they showed us the x-ray of her tumour, we were in shock; total and complete shock.
“When they showed us the x-ray of her tumour in her tiny body I wanted to throw up. It felt like someone punched me in the stomach continuously until I couldn’t breathe any longer.
“We stayed strong for the first eight-day hospitalisation; Harlow underwent a major surgery, removing her tumour which had taken over her left ovary, so that was removed as well.
“They also took out her appendix for preventative measure. Harlow also had two other procedures to put peripherally inserted central catheters (PICC) line into her arm for ease of access to medications.
“We actually waited until after Harlow’s first round of chemo to release the news to people other than immediate family and friends.
“Once the initial shock was over, it was easier to answer any questions we knew would be asked. We lost a lot of friends on the journey. People don’t know what to say or do, so they say nothing. It is very isolating.
“I think the first time I cried was after we left Harlow in the operating room to remove her tumour. I had been holding my emotions back for so long, in fear of scaring Harlow more than she already was.
“Each time a nurse got close to her she would cry. Mark and I shared our first cry the night we came home after her surgery. Harlow had just been put in her crib.
“We cried watching her on the video monitor in her room. I remember us sharing ‘how can a baby so precious be so sick?’ ‘this is so unfair’ and ‘I wish it was me and not her’.”
Despite their shock and worry, Bianca and Mark decided they should document every happy moment Harlow had and shared pictures on social media.
“We wanted to share her highs and lows with anyone that wanted to follow her journey. It actually became very therapeutic making her Harlow the Brave page. It was a much-needed distraction while everything was going on around us,” Bianca said.
“I have my good days and bad days. The best days are the ones I don’t even think about the past and can just focus on the present.
“We don’t know what’s in store for us or for Harlow. Harlow’s cancer is very, very aggressive and has a high possibility of relapse.
“That’s why they did a stem cell transplant and wiped out her entire body basically to give her an ultimately new life with new healthy cells.
“I am sure my husband and I suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, but all cancer parents I’ve spoken to feel the same way.
“Now that Harlow’s counts are normal, we can do things that make her happy. She loves to ride the carousel at the local zoo or go for walks to the park.
“She loves dancing and singing. Every afternoon before dinner we have a ‘dance party’ in our living room.
“It’s the simple things that we missed the most during her treatment. So, we try to do something to make her smile every day.”
Their tough journey has meant that they have lost friends along the way partly due to some comments they have received.
“A close friend of mine, at the time (not anymore because of this comment) texted me and asked, ‘is she going to make it?’ What kind of friend even questions that? It was horrible, and it hurt,” Bianca said.
“When Harlow had just finished treatment and had no hair, we often got people saying, ‘you have such a cute boy’ or ‘look how cute he is’.
“I know they weren’t being mean in any way, but it is just sad she doesn’t have long hair like a normal two-year-old should.
“You could tell it made them uncomfortable and we often found people couldn’t turn away or would avoid looking in our direction when out in public. Thankfully Harlow was too young to notice any of this.
“Harlow still has a long road ahead of her; she is only in her first year of remission. So, she still has clinic visits every six to eight weeks for blood draws to check her tumour markers (a way to track of there is cancer cells in her).
“Never lose hope. Never ever give up. As a parent you have to stay strong for your child but it is also okay to cry from time to time.
“Even when you are in the thick of it all, remember how brave and strong your child is. You must fight for them just as they are fighting for themselves.
“Be their advocate. Be their strength. Show them more love than you knew was humanly possible. Never lose sight of the ones you love and get help if it is available.”
For more information visit: https://www.facebook.com/harlowthebrave/