If it wasn’t for decades of progressive cancer research, Liz Burfitt knows her beloved two-year-old daughter Sophia wouldn’t be here.
“The difference between the child that survives and child that dies is research – and research saved Sophia. We’re just so grateful for that,” Liz said.
That’s why ACRF is launching an Autumn Appeal – raising funds to continue backing the most brilliant research and improve survivorship for more families like Sophia’s.
Sophia was just 13 months old when she was diagnosed with an extremely rare germ cell tumour behind her left eye in 2021.
Nothing could have prepared Liz and dad Pat for the devastating news of little Sophia’s condition, but they were soon given hope.
The parents were informed by their oncologist that, thanks to medical advancements, there was a “70 or 80% chance” of Sophia’s cancer being treated successfully.
With a proven plan of approach, Sophia quickly started treatment. She first had surgery to insert a central line, then began five months of chemotherapy.
During this period, Sophia endured extreme nausea, hair loss and night terrors. It was a heartbreaking period for Liz and Pat, but they were hopeful knowing that it was the best treatment available to tackle Sophia’s cancer.
“The tumour produced a marker called alpha-fetoprotein. A normal range is between zero to six, but when she was first diagnosed, her levels were up at 3700,” Liz said.
“Every two weeks when we did the blood test, that number was decreasing, so we knew it was working.”
However, there was still another major setback to come. Just when doctors believed Sophia’s cancer had disappeared, another scan showed a large mass remained.
It meant Sophia needed a risky surgery that could’ve resulted in paralysis of the left side of her face. “Thankfully that went well, and the surgery was about five hours,” Liz said.
“And at the end of that, when we got the results back, it turned out that was just a dead-cell mass.”
Sophia has sadly lost sight in her left eye due to her optic nerve being crushed but is otherwise a healthy and happy girl. Sophia loves playing at the park, ballet dancing and singing along to the popular musical, Frozen.
Fast-forward to today: Sophia has been cancer-free for more than a year and is a doting big sister to little brother Hamish, who is just 10 months old. Liz couldn’t be more thankful for her beautiful family.
“It’s amazing. Research did save Sophia’s life. It’s such a big, bold statement, but it’s true,” she said.
“If those scientists behind the scenes hadn’t worked on this type of cancer, then she would not be here.”
All donations to ACRF go towards providing scientists with the technology and equipment to fast-track life-saving breakthroughs in cancer research.
Take for example the world-leading ACRF International Centre for the Proteome of Cancer (ProCan®) at Children’s Medical Research Institute in Westmead, established in 2015 with a $10 million grant.
The ground-breaking research project compares cancer samples against those in a database/reference library held by ProCan, collected in Australia and globally.