Mother’s agony after daughter’s ‘pulled muscle’ diagnosed as rare cancer

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

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

But in a matter of weeks, this summer, she could barely get off the couch on her own.

Mother shares a wish for a brave girl battling cancer

Flo Stokes (right) with her parents Ed and Hannah and her sister Phoebe

The COVID restrictions meant the Staffordshire mum-off was unable to get a face-to-face doctor’s appointment for her daughter.

And despite her being taken to Sir Robert Peel Community Hospital in Tamworth, she was told the pain was muscular. He claims that later doctors at George Elliot A&E told him it could be appendicitis.

And, shockingly, she told BlackCountry Live that doctors even called her “a little dramatic” over her concerns.

High-risk neuroblastoma was discovered when Flo was taken by blue light to a Leicester hospital for a possible appendicitis operation.

“During summer vacation in July, she started saying she had a bad back,” Hannah said.

“She’s always climbing trees and stuff so we put it on a pulled muscle or something.

“A few days later she was still complaining of pain and her pain threshold is very high so I contacted doctors but we could not see her due to covid.

“So they said it sounds beefy so if it got bad then calling back which I did a week later.”

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

“It happened twice and then I took her to A&E – I thought she might have an infection in her spine and they told me I was being a little dramatic.

“I trusted the doctors so I trusted them.”

(rl) swims in the hospital with her younger sister Phoebe
(rl) swims in the hospital with her younger sister Phoebe

“She was getting to the point where she couldn’t get off the couch or go up the stairs,” the teaching assistant said.

“We had to stand behind him to make sure he didn’t fall.

“She was not well but the doctors didn’t have anything to do with it.

“I was giving her Calpol, but one day she decided not to give her anything and took her to the hospital so they could see how bad she was.

“I said I wondered if she had sepsis and thought she had appendicitis.

“She was on blue light for Leicester and the surgeon said she did not think it could be because the pain had been going on for five weeks.

“They thought it might be a narrowed bowel but a young doctor kept bringing us specialists for help.

“She was on morphine and then did an MRI scan and called us half an hour later.

“He said he had cancer and thought it was leukemia. He was then taken to Nottingham, where he was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma.

“She stayed there for five weeks and then we were taken to Birmingham Children’s Hospital.”

Hannah shaved her hair to help her feel less self-conscious about losing Flo
Hannah shaved her hair to help her feel less self-conscious about losing Flo

The diagnosis devastated the family, who were personally told the heartbreaking news, as COVID guidelines prevented Hannah and Flo’s dad Ed from seeing the doctor together.

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

“Her father had already spoken to the doctor as we were only allowed one parent at a time.

“He was told and I saw his face and thought ‘oh my god.’ Then I went in and the lady did all this to me too.”

Hannah continued: “She had a Hickman line installed to get the drug into her system quickly. She told us within 24 hours.

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

“Then her biopsy was taken, so she got a ‘shark bite’ because she calls it a scar in her stomach.

“It was too early – she started chemotherapy the day after diagnosis. The NHS is amazing with all of this.”

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

The blow softened when Hannah asked Flo to shave her head as well.

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

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

She continued: “She’s been doing intense chemotherapy – five different ones. Flo had over 100 areas of cancer all over her body, even the bones in her face.

“For her to receive stem cell treatment, she needs to have less than three and she still has about 12.

“She had her last chemo treatment on Christmas Eve, which will hopefully bring the numbers down.”

flo in hospital
flo in hospital

The family is now raising money for a treatment in America that can stop the cancer from coming back. To gofundme page Has already raised over £32,000 out of the £250,000 required.

“There’s a vaccine they say is available in New York that costs £250,000, so we’re trying to raise money for that,” Hannah said.

“He has a high rate of relapse in cancer, which will hopefully prevent it.

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

The mother, who also has a two-year-old daughter, Phoebe, said she was blown away by the community’s support.

Her university friend, tattooist Hope Rosemary, organizes a raffle to help raise money for Flo.

Hannah said: “I’ve known Hope because we went to university in Birmingham together.

“It’s really lovely to see how many people are there for you.

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

Flo with your baby cousin Eddie
Flo with your baby cousin Eddie

Hope, who is from Wolverhampton, said: “Hannah’s my best friend and Flo is too important to do nothing.

“I have a very small but powerful platform and it makes more sense to do something like Raffle.”

Dr Magnus Harrison, executive medical director of the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton, said: “We understand this must be an extremely difficult time for the family and we are truly sorry that we did not make a diagnosis earlier.

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

A George Eliot Hospital spokesperson said: “We are sorry to hear of Ms 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 we can investigate their concerns.”

You can donate at Flo’s GoFundMe page Here.

Hope Rosemary’s Ruffle Info Is Available Here.

Stay up to date with the latest information on the region with our Black Country email updates.