Six weeks ago, the Barnard family’s world got turned upside down. After weeks of doctor’s visits, Andy and Sammi Barnard’s 16-month-old daughter, Poppy-Mai, was diagnosed with a Rare Rhabdoid Tumour last week. The family was told that their youngest member would only live for a few more days. Now, they have to live through every parent’s nightmare of having to watch their princess become an angel.
On February 14, Sammi Barnard took Poppy-Mai to the doctors because her usually happy girl didn’t eat or drink. Poppy-Mai was also constipated with a distended tummy and off-balance. The doctor saw her symptoms and told Sammi that it was because Poppy-Mai was teething. She was then prescribed laxatives.
Ten days later, Poppy-Mai refused all food and drinks and she had trouble walking. Sammi noticed a lump appear under her rib cage. She then took her daughter to a different doctor who then gave her stronger laxatives than the last time.
Sammi started growing more concerned that same afternoon when Poppy-Mai started vomiting. She then drove her to her local A&E. Poppy-Mai was admitted to the hospital immediately and the doctors began stabilising the toddler. That day an ultrasound revealed what appeared to be a mass in her stomach. The doctors suspected Poppy-Mai had Wilms, which is a kidney cancer.
Sammi’s husband, Andy, serves in the Royal Air Force and was serving with his squadron in America at that moment. Sammi had to inform Andy about their daughter’s condition over the phone. Because of the circumstances, Andy’s boss arranged for him to go back home to his family.
After Andy’s return, the parents were told that Poppy-Mai’s cancer was spreading. She was then diagnosed with a malignant rhabdoid tumour in both her kidneys and lungs, which is a rare and aggressive type of cancer. Her parents were told that their daughter’s chances of survival were slim. She soon began chemotherapy and started to respond well. However, after four weeks in the hospital, Poppy-Mai was diagnosed with a tumour in her brain. The tumour’s size and position above her right eye meant that it was inoperable. The heartbroken parents were then told that their daughter would only live two more days without treatment.
Sammi told The Sun, “I was stunned. I couldn’t believe we had been in the hospital for four weeks and it had only just been found. I can’t even tell you how I felt because I was just in utter shock and disbelief. We just looked at each other trying to take it in. For someone to tell you that your daughter could be gone in two days is unfathomable,”
Andy and Sammi were told that Poppy-Mai could receive chemotherapy, but that it only would prolong her life with a few more weeks and that she would have painful side-effects. Because of these reasons, they decided not to go through with the therapy. They then had to tell their two oldest children six-year-old Rylee and four-year-old Jenson–Jay about their baby sister’s condition.
When Poppy-Mai was taken home last week, Andy’s RAF colleagues arranged a wedding day for Poppy-Mai where she could “marry” her father. Andy told Metro, “from the moment we found out Poppy-Mai was a girl I’ve said she’d have the wedding of her dreams one day. I never ever thought it would be like this.”
The little girl was escorted down the aisle by her mum and her two brothers. Poppy-Mai was dressed in her cousin’s christening gown. Sammi said: “I couldn’t stop crying. Being our only daughter, we’d often talk about one day watching her get married. She looked so beautiful. But nobody could say the vows that had been written because everyone was crying too much.”
Poppy-Mai stayed awake during the entire ceremony and then fell asleep in her proud father’s arms. Now, the family is just enjoying every single second they have left together.
Sammi and Andy have set up a donation page in honour of Poppy-Mai. Their aim is to set up the Poppy-Mai trust for children with rare cancers and help raise awareness for the smaller charities involved that make the journey a bit more comfortable. On the page, Andy writes, “I’ve always had a dream to own a nice secluded field where I could set up my own campsite and now build a sanctuary where sick children can stay with their family in their need of respite. Each hut will be named after my children. Picking a name was the hard part but not now, while I sat at her bedside Poppy’s field came into my mind. I know now that I must achieve this in Poppy-Mai’s honour.”
Everyone at CelebMix is sending the Barnard family all of the love and light in the world.