Milan Nguyen-Mai is only five years old but is in the midst of the fight of her life.
The kindergarten pupil of Our Lady of Fatima School, Caringbah, has undergone a last-ditch attempt to rid her of a virulent form of brain cancer. Last July the budding violinist and ballerina was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a common brain tumour in young children.
It was surgically removed within a day, and her parents Marilee and Min were told that with radiotherapy her prognosis was good, with a 80 per cent chance of survival. But towards the end of that treatment the cancer spread. Subsequent chemotherapy helped but she then developed leptomeningeal disease – a rare complication in which cancer spreads to the spinal column and membranes around the brain.
Her illness is considered terminal but her parents have refused to give up hope, reaching out to a US paediatric cancer specialist who has successfully treated children as sick as Milan for advice. Last month they convinced Milan’s doctors at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, to inject high-dose chemotherapy directly into her brain.
“The doctors here are not too hopeful because haven’t had success with treating someone with such extensive disease,” says Marilee, a teacher at Bethany College in Hurstville. “So we’ve just got to give it a try. It’s a guessing game really.”
She says that the family’s strongest hope lies in God. “We just want to thank everyone for their love and prayers. Please continue to pray for Milan’s miracle. It’s prayer that has got her this far. The doctors don’t know God, but we know God and what he’s capable of.”
Though Milan has a fraction of her usual energy, her parents are delighted to have her back home with them and her younger siblings, Micah and Major.
Next month she turns six, but they are taking things “hour by hour, and sometimes minute by minute” says Marilee. Support in the form of Masses, care packages, donations, and prayers has poured in from a number of Sydney parishes and schools connected with the family, including Our Lady of Fatima parish and school.
Principal Karen Lamarre and parish administrator Fr Julian Belich refer to the art and craft-loving little girl as “our beautiful Milan”. Meanwhile Bethany College has donated more than $3000 through a gofundme page (Milan’s Brain Cancer Battle) set up to raise funds for Milan’s ongoing treatment, which Marilee says will include travel to the US if necessary.
A family fun day will also be held at Cronulla Leagues Club on April 8. The event, ‘Milan’s Miracle’, is from 2.30 pm-5pm. Entertainment will include a DJ, karaoke, a fashion parade, face painting and dancing. To purchase tickets visit www.trybooking.com