Mum Discovers Daughter's Holiday 'Insect Bite' Was Actually A Tumour Wrapped Around Her Cheek Bone

'My heart broke into a million pieces.'

01/06/2016 10:14

A mum-of-three was horrified to discover a lump on her daughter's cheek, which she'd believed to be an insect bite, was a tumour wrapped around her cheekbone.

Tracey Payton, from Stockport, spotted the lump on eight-year-old Emma's face during a family holiday to Egypt and had it checked as soon as they got home.

Her GP initially believed Emma, now 10, had a blocked saliva gland, but an MRI scan eventually revealed she had a rare soft tissue cancer.

"When we found out it was cancer my legs were like jelly," Payton said.

"Emma was outside the room with the play worker when the consultant told us. I thought, 'No, it can't be. This is our child.' My heart broke into a million pieces." 

Caters News Agency
Tracey Payton and her daughter Emma.

Payton, a teaching assistant, said she noticed the lump on her daughter's face on the first day of their holiday.

"I was putting sun cream on her face and found a lump on her right cheekbone near her ear," she said.

"We didn't think anything of it. She said she had had it for ages and it didn't hurt, so we weren't overly concerned. It was just like an insect bite.

"You couldn't really see it, but it was rock hard, like a pebble, the way that swollen insect bits can sometimes be. It was about the size of a marble.

"I just thought she'd been bitten in the night."

After returning from holiday, Payton said they went to their GP, who sent them to the dentist.

"Then [Emma] had an ultrasound at the facial unit at Wythenshawe Hospital, followed by an MRI scan and finally a fine needle biopsy," the mum continued.

"It was so rare that it took a while to work out what was wrong with her.

"When she was diagnosed, the tumour was 3cm. It was wrapped around her cheekbone, but we had caught it quickly so it hadn't spread anywhere else yet.

"When I broke the news to Emma, she was petrified. I didn't want her to be scared of the word cancer. She is a big Harry Potter fan, so I told her cancer was just a word people are scared of, like Voldemort."

Caters News Agency
Emma Payton on holiday in Egypt when the lump was first discovered.

Emma had a nine-hour operation to remove the tumour and part of her cheekbone was removed.

She had a bone and muscle graft from her neck to reconstruct her cheek, before undergoing months of chemotherapy.

Along with her mum, dad Phil, sister Holly and twin brother Ben, Emma then flew to Oklahoma for eight weeks, where she had 23 sessions of proton beam therapy and two chemotherapy cycles.

Caters News Agency
Emma shortly after surgery.

Payton added: "Emma had her operation in January 2014. It left a big scar down the side of her face and she has a dent in her cheek where they removed some muscle mass.

"During chemotherapy, she would sometimes go grey and have no energy. She had to give up swimming lessons and dancing, but she desperately wanted to carry on at school. She managed 54% attendance that year.

"For the first year after her chemotherapy, she had an MRI scan and chest X-ray every three months. She still has them once every four months now.

"We went to Florida last year with the charity When You Wish Upon a Star. It was like a light at the end of the tunnel. Emma's illness had affected the whole family. Don't get me wrong, I would sit in the shower and sob, but she never knew that. We never let her see that side of us.

"Emma gets embarrassed about it now, if people tell her she is amazing or brave. She sees herself as a normal kid who happened to get cancer. She always just got on with it.

"She's just completed her Year 6 SATs and is doing well. She knows children who have died of cancer, so she knows her own situation could have been very different."

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Also on HuffPost

Suggest a correction