St Helens Star:

THE family of a seven-year-old girl who was diagnosed with an "impossible" tumour are sharing her story to praise the hospital that saved her life against all odds.

Leah Bennett, from Bold, was just six years old in November 2018 when she started intermittently complaining of a sore back. A few days later she couldn’t sit straight in her car seat.

Leah's pain continued throughout December 2018 and into January 2019 with her appetite and energy levels also affected.

St Helens Star:

Leah a week before her diagnosis

One evening after coming across an article about BBC presenter Dianne Oxberry, who died from ovarian cancer in 2018, Leah's dad Stephen Bennett read a footnote of symptoms for cancer – and saw that tiny Leah had some of those symptoms.

Leah's mum Claire, booked to see a GP who immediately referred Leah to Whiston Hospital where it was discovered that she had a large lump on the bottom of her spine.

She was then taken to Alder Hey Children's Hospital where she underwent numerous scans and tests, and was diagnosed with an unknown tumour.

St Helens Star:

Leah and her dad Stephen

The tumour run from her spine into her abdomen and around her arteries in her legs as well as the bottom of her aorta.

Dad-of-two Stephen said: "The realisation of how serious this was hit me like a train.

"What the Doctor said will live with me forever. Our hearts just broke on the spot.

St Helens Star:

The scan showing Leah's 'impossible' tumour

"What makes the situation even worse is my mother-in-law Marie was also in the late stages of terminal cancer.

"So we had Marie ill at her home with terminal cancer and Leah in hospital with this.

"We had never felt so empty and helpless."

St Helens Star:

With the tumour not having an official name, none of the medical staff knew how to directly treat it.

Leah, a pupil at St Bartholemew's, in Rainhill, underwent chemotherapy treatment, but it had little effect.

Alder Hey surgeons took Leah's case to a meeting with other medical professionals from across the country to discuss what to do next.

St Helens Star:

The 3D printed model of Leah's tumour surgeons made to assess how and if they could operate

Stephen, 39, said: "We were told that surgery to remove this was Leah's only option.

"However, after the meeting, I was told that the surgeons from Great Ormond Street, Bristol and Manchester Hospitals had said that surgery was impossible for Leah as it would be highly unlikely to be 'in her best interests'.

"They called it the impossible tumour. This was the hardest thing I had ever had to hear in my life.

St Helens Star:

Leah with dad Stephen

"Marie also passed away from her cancer around this time as well.

"Claire said 'have you ever had to sit next to somebody you love and watch them die? Well I have three weeks ago with my mum and what you are telling me is that you are making a decision not to operate on our daughter?'."

St Helens Star:

Despite this advice, surgeons decided, after speaking to Stephen and Claire and explaining that there was only a 10 per cent chance of them being able to remove the tumour, to take the chance.

Three surgeons from Alder Hey and one from Liverpool Royal operated on Leah, and after eight hours they were told that Leah was not only OK but that surgeons had managed to remove most of the "impossible" tumour.

St Helens Star:

Stephen said: "We broke down into floods of tears. I’ll never forget how amazing it felt to hear those words.

"Immediately, what was the worst day of our lives had suddenly become the best day."

St Helens Star:

After undergoing radiotherapy at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre everyday for six and a half weeks, Leah made a steady recovery and remarkably earlier this month her family were told that the remaining tumour had reduced in size.

‪On Monday (January 27) Leah will finally get to ring the end of treatment bell at Alder Hey.‬

Stephen, who works at Warrington General Hospital, said: "It's just amazing thinking that we were told this was impossible less than a year ago and here she is now.

St Helens Star:

Leah is now back at school

"This tumour was called impossible, but the amazing surgeons at Alder Hey did it, they saved my daughter's life when others would not have taken the risk.

"The easy option would have been leaving here, but they didn't and they turned the impossible into a possible.

"Now because of what they did another 'impossible' tumour has been operated on, another life saved as well as Leah's.

St Helens Star:

"Now we want to do all we can to thank Alder Hey and all the other charities who have helped us get this far.

"They put their reputations on the line to save our little girl, they are heroes.

"Words will never be enough, but thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

St Helens Star:

The Bennett family are raising funds for Alder Hey Children's Hospital Charity and 19 other charities who have supported them while Leah has been ill.

To donate go to ‪