Parents have paid tribute to a courageous eight-year-old girl who has lost her battle to a rare form of cancer.
Emily Rush was determined not to let cancer break her spirit and would bravely face all of the obstacles placed in front of her during her three-year fight.
She died at her home in Emneth on December 14, surrounded by her parents Julie and Mick Apicella, along with siblings Charles, 18, Molly, 17, Lucy, 15, George, 13 and 11-year-old Fred.
The youngster had been battling with a Wilms Tumour, which is a type of kidney cancer. Around 40 children in this country are diagnosed each year.
Mr and Mrs Apicella have paid tribute to their musical daughter. Mrs Apicella said: “She had such spirit. Emily was a cheeky little devil with such a big personality for someone so little. She handled whatever was thrown at her.
“Emily loved music and was always singing. She loved singing with her sisters.”
Mr Apicella said: “Emily was very brave and mature. There was one occasion when she was feeling really ill but insisted on getting up to ride her bike to show our vicar Dawn Mason, who was visiting.”
Emily first began to suffer symptoms in January 2013 with a stomach ache.
Her worried parents, who were living in Norwich, rushed her to A&E at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital on January 19 when the pain became worse.
The family were sent home later that weekend with constipation medication but her parents managed to get an ultrasound after having a gut feeling that something else was wrong.
Their intuition proved to be right as the ultra sound picked up a 6-inch tumour in Emily’s abdomen.
To help Emily understand, she named the tumour Bob the Blob.
During the early hours of January 24, Emily collapsed at home after her tumour had ruptured.
Mrs Apicella said: “All of a sudden she collapsed and stopped breathing. Mick came running through and got her breathing again and we jumped in the car and rushed to hospital.”
The next morning an ambulance took Emily to Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
Mr Apicella said: “We were told there were two options. Do nothing and Emily would die within 24 hours or have an operation to remove the tumour, but there was a five per cent chance that she would not pull through the operation.”
The following day Emily underwent a six-hour operation to remove the 12-inch tumour and her kidney.
The brave youngster underwent a high dose of radiotherapy and 28 weeks of chemotherapy.
Regular scans followed and in September 2013 doctors found no evidence of disease.
Mr Apicella said: “We thought it was finished – but we were naive parents who did not fully understand the cancer world.”
In February 2014, the family’s world was rocked once more when another tumour was found in Emily’s renal bed.
Mr Apicella said: “She called this one Bill. It had grown pretty close to her liver and heart.”
In July 2014, she had a six-hour operation in Birmingham City Hospital to remove the 5-inch tumour.
Mr Apicella said: “Unless you have children and have been in that situation, you will never understand. It was a relief to have the news she had made it through. Three days after the operation she was in a wheelchair and visited Toys R Us.”
This was followed by a chemotherapy and months of scans.
But once more the cancer returned and another tumour was picked up in April 2015.
Sadly this time the family were told that there were no other treatment options left.
The family tried a trial drug at Birmingham Children’s Hospital but after four months decided to stop as it wasn’t working.
The family enjoyed a magical holiday to Mexico where Emily celebrated her birthday and swam with dolphins.
Mrs Apicella said: “One of the hardest things was to bring home a child who looked healthy but knowing that the cancer was going to kill her and there was nothing else to try or to prolong her life. Emily had looked the best she had in three years.”
Music was an escape for Emily and a moving video has now been found of the youngster singing a song she had written about cancer.
The family received exceptional support from East Anglian Children’s Hospice, especially clinical nurse specialist Debbie Lynn, and specialist oncology nurse Hannah Parsons from Addenbrooke’s, along with Upwell Health Centre.
Mr Apicella said: “These people went out of their way to ensure that we could have Emily at home and make the last three months of her life as we wanted.”
His wife Julie is now warning other parents to go with their gut feelings if they feel something is wrong.
September is Child Cancer Awareness Month and symptoms to look out for are: increased headaches, unexplained weight loss, swelling or pain, excessive bruising constant infections or persistent fevers.
For more information go to: www.bechildcanceraware.org