A mother has revealed her grief after her daughter’s back pain turned out to be a rare form of cancer.

Hannah Potter says at first she thought six-year-old Flo had just pulled a muscle.

But within weeks, in the summer of this year, she could barely get up from the couch on her own.

Mom shares wish from brave baby girl who fights cancer

Flo Stokes (right) with parents Edd and Hannah and sister Phoebe

The Covid restrictions meant the mother-of-two, who lives in Staffordshire, was unable to secure a face-to-face medical appointment for her daughter.

And although she rushed her to Sir Robert Peel Community Hospital in Tamworth, she was told the pain was in the muscles. She claims that George Elliot A&E doctors later told her it could be appendicitis.

And, shockingly, she told BlackCountryLive that doctors even called her “a little bit dramatic” because of her concerns.

It wasn’t until Flo was taken by Blue Lights to Leicester Hospital for potential appendicitis surgery that the high-risk neuroblastoma was discovered.

“In the middle of summer vacation in July, she started to say that she had back pain,” Hannah said.

“She always climbs trees and things, so we attribute it to a strained muscle or something.

“A few days later she was still complaining of pain and she has a pretty high pain threshold so I contacted the doctors but we couldn’t see them due to Covid.

“So they said it looked muscular, so I call back if it got worse, which I did a week later.”

She added: “They couldn’t see her so I took her to a walk-in center who said he was muscular and barely looked at her.

“This happened a couple of times, then I took her to A&E – I thought she might have an infection in her spine and they told me I was a bit dramatic.

“I trusted the doctors so I believed them.”

(RL) Flo in the hospital with her little sister Phoebe
(RL) Flo in the hospital with her little sister Phoebe

“She was getting to the point where she could no longer get off the couch or climb the stairs,” added the teaching assistant.

“We had to stand behind her to make sure she didn’t fall.

“She was not well but the doctors did not want her.

“I was giving her Calpol but one day I decided not to give it to her and take her to the hospital so they could see how badly she was.

“I said I was wondering if she had sepsis and they thought she had appendicitis.

“It was lit blue in Leicester and the surgeon said she didn’t think it could be that as the pain had been going on for five weeks.

“They thought it might be a compacted gut, but a young doctor kept bringing us specialists to help us.

“She was on morphine, then had an MRI and called us half an hour later.

“They said she had cancer and they thought it was leukemia. She was then taken to Nottingham where she was diagnosed with high risk neuroblastoma.

“She was there for five weeks, then we were transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital.”

Hannah shaved her hair to help Flo feel less embarrassed about losing hers
Hannah shaved her hair to help Flo feel less embarrassed about losing hers

The diagnosis devastated the family, to whom the heartbreaking news was individually announced, as Covid guidelines prevented Hannah and Flo’s father, Edd, from seeing the doctor together.

Hannah said: “We were told at one point that she probably had childhood arthritis, so we never expected a cancer diagnosis.

“Her father had come to speak to the doctor before because we were only allowed one parent at a time.

“We told her and I saw her face and I thought ‘oh my God.’ Then I walked in and the lady went through it all with me too.”

Hannah continued, “She had a Hickman line installed to quickly get drugs into her system. She had it within 24 hours of the announcement.

“We told them to do whatever they had to do.

“She then underwent a biopsy and therefore suffered a ‘shark bite’ as she calls it a scar on her stomach.

“It was so quick – she started chemotherapy the day after her diagnosis. The NHS is amazing with it all.”

Flo has now undergone aggressive chemotherapy, losing her curly hair in the process.

The blow was softened when Hannah told Flo to shave her head too.

Hannah, 36, said: “Flo is really good at everything. They took most of the tumor, which helped relieve her back pain – it was nowhere near as bad.

“She lost her big curly hair and I thought she would be traumatized when she lost it. But she shaved my head and said, ‘I’m fine now!'”

She added, “She’s undergoing intense chemotherapy – five different. Flo had over 100 areas of cancer all over her body, even in the bones of her face.

“In order for her to receive stem cell treatment, she needs to be reduced to three and she still has about 12.

“She had her last chemotherapy treatment on Christmas Eve, which hopefully brought the numbers down.”

Flo at the hospital
Flo at the hospital

The family is now fundraising for treatment in America that could prevent cancer from coming back. A GoFundMe page has already raised over £ 32,000 of the £ 250,000 needed.

“There is a vaccine they are calling available in New York which costs £ 250,000 so we are trying to fundraise for it,” Hannah said.

“Cancer, she has a high rate of relapse, which hopefully would stop it.

“If we don’t use the money for this, then we’ll donate the money to all the charities that have helped us instead.”

The mom, who also has two-year-old daughter Phoebe, said she was blown away by the support from the community.

Her college friend, tattoo artist Hope Rosemary organized a raffle to help raise money for Flo.

Hannah said: “I know Hope because we went to college together in Birmingham.

“It has been really nice to see how many people are there for you.

“The community around us where we live has been amazing. People will stop me on the street and ask me how Flo is doing.”

Flo with her little cousin Edie
Flo with her little cousin Edie

Hope, who is from Wolverhampton, added: “Hannah is my oldest friend and Flo is too important to do nothing.

“I have a very small but powerful platform and it made more sense to do something like the raffle.”

Dr Magnus Harrison, Executive Medical Director of Derby and Burton University Hospitals, said: “We understand that this must be an extremely difficult time for the family and we are so sorry that we did not make a diagnosis sooner.

“We would like to support them and advise the family to contact our Patient Counseling and Liaison Service (PALS) if they wish to discuss this case further.”

A spokesperson for the George Eliot Hospital said: “We are sorry to hear about Mrs. Potter’s experience and we wish Flo the best of luck.

“We cannot discuss an individual’s care in detail, but we invite Flo’s family to contact us so that we can investigate their concerns.”

You can donate at Flo’s GoFundMe page here.

Hope Rosemary raffle information is available here.

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