In October 2019, Vanessa and LeeVan noticed that their usually lively four-year-old daughter Ava was feeling unwell. Within days their world was turned upside down when they received a shocking diagnosis; Ava was suffering from a rare and inoperable form of brain cancer, Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG).
DIPG is a highly aggressive cancer which, though uncommon in adults, is the leading cause of death from brain tumours in children. Devastatingly, DIPG currently has a zero per cent survival rate and has a prognosis of just nine to twelve months survival from the point of diagnosis.
Ava underwent radiotherapy in an attempt to reduce the tumour’s effects as much as possible and to give her more time with her Mum, Dad and three-year-old sister Amelie.
But within twelve months of diagnosis, Ava was snatched away in October 2020. Just two weeks before her death her family hosted their very own Pirate Day, a day of dressing up to raise money for vital kids’ cancer research. The family received support from the wider community, with personnel from the Wagga Wagga RAAF base, a local Early Learning Centre and many others joining their Pirate Day crew.
In a moving Facebook tribute, not 12 months after Ava's tragic passing, her mum Vanessa, opened up to reveal what Pirate Day means to her and her family. The Kids' Cancer Project have republished that post here with Vanessa's permission.