Penny was born of seemingly perfect health, always met her milestones, slept well and was an absolute dream of a baby. The only concern her parents, Levi and Bronya, had was a persistent cough.
Numerous trips to the local GP and two different pediatricians put her cough down to “reflux”.
Levi and Bronya took all the steps to help reduce the “reflux”, but the cough continued and didn’t improve.
One very normal week day evening, Bronya was packing away Penny and her sister’s toys whilst everyone was in bed and noticed that a head was missing off a small plastic Elsa figurine. Levi’s first comment was that he’d hoped Penny had not swallowed it. His comment was enough for Bronya to take Penny to the local hospital for further inspection.
The following morning, Penny had a chest X-ray. Penny and her parents were instructed to wait for the theatre owner to arrive and take a second set of scans. Obviously, the family was immediately concerned. Had the doll head lodged itself in Penny’s throat? Had something else been blocked?
"The panic set in but to what extent we would never have dreamed." - Bronya, Mother
Once the second scan was completed, the radiographer looked extremely concerned and advised that their doctor and Westmead hospital had been called. The doctor suggested that Penny had a collapsed lung.
Arriving at the hospital, Penny and her parents were met by the respiratory team. Three hours later they were taken into another room and met by a respiratory doctor and then another team of doctors. Once they met the Oncology team, it was clear that their whole world was about to be turned upside down. The scans had shown a mass. The doctors weren’t yet sure what kind of mass, but Neuroblastoma was the most likely form.
The following days Penny had an MRI and biopsy to confirm that the doctors were correct. Once a central line was inserted into her chest, reality really set in for Levi and Bronya.
The mass was confirmed as a Neuroblastoma.
Weeks later as more results came through, it was considered a ‘favourable’ tumour and Penny would not be administered chemotherapy. But there was a big issue with the tumor’s slow growing features and its location. Partially enclaving Penny’s aorta and close to her spinal canal, meant it was too risky to operate.
Without the removal of the mass, Penny must continue with regular MRI and MIBG scans to monitor the tumour and ensure that it’s not interfering with the surrounding organs.
Over three years have passed since Penny’s diagnosis. And it has been a huge blur for the Sergi family. This is something that Penny will need to deal with for years to come as she continues to have routine scans to check the tumour.
"Why should an innocent young girl have to deal with this? Such a beautiful smile and cheeky sense of humour hides a story of trauma, tears and immense pain." – Bronya, Mother
Penny and the whole Sergi family will be participating in Run2Cure this year to raise awareness and funds for neuroblastoma.
They have been huge supporters of the event for the past couple of years with Team Penny setting an individual fundraising record of $37,000 in 2018.