When four-year-old Kelsey was taken to the doctors with a swollen stomach in January, her parents – who suspected she might be bloated – never dreamed she would be diagnosed with cancer.
But scans revealed a mysterious tumour which confounded doctors and specialists at Southampton General Hospital, where she was rapidly transferred after first being admitted to Worthing hospital.
Her father, Billy Meldrum, of Woodlands Avenue, Rustington, said: “It’s very rare not to be able to pinpoint what it is straight away.”
Doctors decided they had no choice but to remove the tumour, despite not having a diagnosis.
Once removed, the tumour was found to weigh more than a kilogram and – after being analysed by yet more specialists – was identified as a cancerous neuroblastoma.
Since then, Kelsey’s family’s lives have been turned upside down as they journey back and forth to Southampton hospital’s paediatric unit, for what doctors said will be a year of treatment.
“At the beginning it was all a big shock,” Billy said.
“You think you’re going to lose your child and not take her home.
“After a while it becomes a daily thing, and you just hope the next bit of news will be better than the last.”
He said brave Kelsey, who turned five in May, was taking it all in her stride.
“We have had stages where she gets down, otherwise she takes it on the chin,” the 37-year-old said.
“She’s stronger than the rest of us.
“She wasn’t fussed about losing her hair and is happy to carry on like a normal child.”
A fundraising page has been set up by Billy’s stepsister, Michelle Lidbetter, to offer financial support to the family, which includes Billy’s partner Helen Morris, 34, and children Oliver, 14, Charlotte, 12, and Keira, seven.
“It’s helped us out no end,” Billy said.
“What with travelling up to Southampton, I don’t know how we would have coped.
“It helps us keep Kelsey happy and comfortable.”