Skip to content

Manchester Foundation
Trust Charity

Who We’ve Helped

Ava LeBlanc

Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital

Ava’s Story

At just two years old, Ava was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour. She underwent gruelling treatments and surgery after surgery, but the tumour kept growing back. Ava will remain a long-term patient at our children’s hospital, but we can help to improve the experience for patients like her with new specialist iMRI equipment.

Ava was just two years old when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She told her mum, Charlene, that she felt dizzy, like the room was spinning. Over the next few days Ava became sick, lost her sense of balance, and started holding tilting her head to one side.

Charlene knew straight away that something wasn’t right and took Ava to A&E where a CT scan revealed a mass on Ava’s brain. She was referred to RMCH straight away for an MRI scan that showed the mass on her brain was a tumour. Charlene said: “Nothing prepares you for the shock of getting news like that. We were told Ava had a 20-30% chance of surviving five years or more. We were heartbroken.”

Five days later, Ava went into surgery to have the tumour removed. The operation took around 10 hours and revealed the tumour was cancerous. Ava stayed in hospital for most of the next eight months, receiving a total of five gruelling and debilitating cycles of chemotherapy, followed by high dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.

During that time Ava had another MRI scan that showed another small mass in her brain. The doctors weren’t sure if it was left behind during the previous surgery or if it was a new tumour. Ava was rushed into emergency surgery. During this second operation, the surgeon wanted to do an MRI scan mid-way through to check he’d removed the entire tumour. To do this he had to close the wound and wheel Ava out of theatre for an MRI scan in a different part of the hospital while she was still under general anaesthetic and ventilated.

The MRI scan showed there was still a small bit of tumour left, so Ava was immediately taken back to theatre to try to remove the last bit.  An MRI scan a few days later showed the tumour was now all gone – it was amazing news and Ava remained tumour free for two years. But then one day, shortly after she started reception, Charlene noticed that Ava was tilting her head to the side again and just knew the tumour was back. She rushed Ava to A&E where their worst fears were confirmed.

Once again Ava had surgery, and once again, the doctors had to close her up mid-way through the surgery for an MRI scan to check all the tumour had been removed. This scan revealed there was still a last bit of tumour remaining – a sliver of white on the scan. Ava was immediately taken back to surgery to try to remove this piece.  However, an MRI scan the following day showed it hadn’t all been removed.  The surgeon said he’d removed everything he could see, so the family agreed to take Ava to another hospital– 60 miles from their home – to use the specialist iMRI equipment there that could better pinpoint the remaining bit of tumour.

It was difficult having Ava so far away from home, especially now that she had a little brother at home who needed caring for too. But this time the surgery took half the time and there was no need to move her mid-way through for an MRI scan.  Ava recovered much quicker and was able to go home a week later, after a final MRI scan showed all the tumour had been removed. However, during the next part of Ava’s treatment, craniospinal radiotherapy, a further MRI scan showed the tumour had returned.

Charlene says: “Ava needs regular monitoring scans, but she never complains or moans, she’s so brave, she just gets on with it. It’s all she’s ever known.”

Now, 11 years old, Ava’s latest scan has shown she is stable and she recently enjoyed trips to Disneyland Paris, Scotland and an alpaca walk with her family. However, due to the side effects of her treatment she’s received, she has to attend a specialist provision high school.

“This has been a difficult transition for Ava but over summer 2023, she’s made great progress and is attending school every morning now with a view to building up to full days at some point,” says Charlene.

“We were told Ava had a 20-30% chance of surviving five years or more. We were heartbroken.”

Stay in the loop

Let’s keep in touch! Sign up here to receive the latest news about charity events and projects, and how you can help, straight to your inbox.