A few days later at day-care, Ava fell asleep just before lunch was served. By the next Saturday, Ava was feeling nauseous and wobbly on her feet. On Sunday, Vanessa took Ava to the local hospital, where she was sent for a scan that revealed a tumour the size of an apple on Ava’s brainstem.
Mum and daughter were bundled onto an emergency flight to Melbourne. The nurse who saw them from the hospital, Vanessa recalls, waved them off with tears in her eyes.
Two days later, in Melbourne, Vanessa and LeeVan were told Ava had a highly aggressive tumour known as diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG). It is a condition, the medical experts told them, that has no treatment and a zero survival rate.
Ava had no chance. She was going to die.
Find out more this May: Brain Cancer Awarness Month.
Finding focus in fundraising
Instead of waiting for their daughter’s life to end, Vanessa and LeeVan bought a camper trailer and travelled to Tasmania. Their goal was to offer Ava as much adventure as possible in the time she had left.
Between hospital stays, they also took the girls on a trip to California, fortunately prior to the pandemic.
“Ava’s favourite animal was the sea otter, and there are no sea otters in Australia,” Vanessa says. “She saw sea otters and humpback whales. We contacted the Monterey Bay Aquarium and they organised for us to be able to feed them.”