On the surface Pippa Zappelli looked like a normal healthy four-year-old, but the discovery of a golf ball-sized lump on her neck proved otherwise.
Initially doctors believed Pippa had infected lymph glands, before breaking the news to Pippa’s parents Hannah and Keith Zappelli in July that Pippa had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.
Time appeared to stand still for Hannah when she received the diagnosis “because you never think it will happen to your family”.
“They did blood tests and ultrasounds and nothing showed anything other than infection markers,” she said.
“It was a two-week process, she had to have further blood tests, undergo sedation, a PET scan, CT scans, echocardiogram and a biopsy off the lymph gland to get confirmation of the diagnosis.”
A PET scan revealed Pippa had lymphoma around her spleen, in her bone marrow and in her chest cavity where swollen lymph glands were putting pressure on her heart, giving her a heart murmur.
The Zappelli family has endured a “roller coaster ride of emotions” since Pippa’s diagnosis.
“You go through guilt because you think ‘why didn’t I pick this up?’ And then you go through anger because it’s not fair and then you feel scared because cancer is a big scary word,” Hannah said.
“I’d done her hair that morning and I hadn’t even noticed it.
“Up until that time she didn’t have a cold, she didn’t have a runny nose, all those symptoms you would expect.”
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is typically diagnosed in teenagers and young adults and only about 30 children under 10 are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in Australia each year.
See Wednesday’s Colac Herald for more.