Parents pray for a miracle in Mexico

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A PERTH family has gone to Mexico in a last-ditch bid to save their four-year-old daughter who is dying of a rare and fatal brain cancer.

Trung and Sandy Nguyen have spent more than $200,000 on an experimental treatment for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, after refusing to accept the verdict of doctors that nothing could be done for their little girl Annabelle.

“Two years ago we were told to go home and ‘make memories’ for the next six to nine months, and if we were lucky we would get 12 months, so we should make the most of it,” Mrs Nguyen said this week.

“No parent deserves to hear that.”

They are one of three Australian families having the controversial treatment, which combines immunotherapy with intra-arterial chemotherapy drugs that are administered directly into the tumour.


media_cameraAnnabelle Nguyen with mother Sandy, father Henry, and sister Alyssa.

Some are paying up to $300,000, despite the treatment’s low success rate.

Sadly, a fourth Australian child being treated in the Mexican city of Monterrey, five-year-old Alexia Eljourdi of Adelaide, died in July after a three-year battle with DIPG.

Mrs Nguyen and Annabelle have been in Mexico since May, and were joined by Mr Nguyen and three-year-old Alyssa in July. They plan to stay until December to finish the 10-treatment course.

“We haven’t seen a huge effect on the cancer but doctors here are happy with her progress, with slight shrink- age of the tumour and less intensity, or enhancement,” Mrs Nguyen said.

“This might seem nothing for what we’ve been paying but the little baby steps are big steps for us.”


media_cameraAustralian brain cancer experts argue the pioneering therapy in Mexico has so far offered limited benefit.

Their nightmare began in 2015 when the family was living overseas temporarily and Annabelle started constantly rubbing her eyes and becoming unsteady on her feet.

They flew back to Perth and Annabelle was rushed to Princess Margaret Hospital, where doctors diagnosed DIPG, an incurable cancer of the brain stem with a survival rate of less than one per cent.

She had radiation therapy, which partly shrank the tumour. When the treatment ended the family moved to Vietnam to try Chinese medicine.

Australian brain cancer experts argue the pioneering therapy in Mexico has so far offered limited benefit.

Mrs Nguyen said that while she accepted it was not a cure, it might hold the cancer at bay.

“Half of me died the day Annabelle was diagnosed and for now we hope for a cure so I can see my daughter’s first day at school home in Perth,” she said.

“Annabelle and other children living with DIPG deserve so much more. I’m emotionally and physically exhausted but I’ll do whatever it takes to fight this monster.”

The family has a fundraising campaign which has raised almost $10,000.

“We are still pretty much self-funding but we are running low, and if I could sell anything else to save our daughter I would, but we have nothing left,” Mrs Nguyen said.

They are part of an international “DIPG family” in Mexico where, in between treatments, Annabelle plays in a swimming pool with other children with the rare cancer.

While some children’s facial features have become distorted by the tumour, Annabelle shows no visible sign of the cancer that is killing her.

“She doesn’t look any different to other children her age, except there is an incurable brain tumour inside her head,” her mother said.

To help: facebook.com/Fighting DIPGwithAnnabelle/ or gofundme. com/fighting-dipg-with-annabelle



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