A teenager was diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor which took away her ability to speak – after she fainted at school and started slurring.
Ellie Riccio, 14, started showing symptoms like slurred speech and falling over repeatedly.
But her mom, Kim, 45, rushed her to hospital after she fainted in drama class – and scans showed a mass on her brain.
Tests at the hospital first showed she had low iron levels in her body – but further investigation found she had a deadly mass, called a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma.
Doctors gave Ellie 10 months to live – and she moved to London with her family to complete three weeks of radiotherapy treatment.
But Ellie, from Ash, in Surrey, died six months after she was diagnosed in June 2022.
Now her mom is marking what would have been Ellie’s 16th birthday with a fundraising challenge to help find a cure for the disease.
Kim said: “I was grateful that during the last months of her life I got to be her mom again, and not her carer.
“It’s not fair – other families have had a year, sometimes even two with their child, but Ellie died just six months after she was diagnosed.
“She lost her mobility, speech and ability to eat because of the tumor.
“It was horrible and because of the meds, she didn’t look the same anymore.”
Ellie was a student at Ash Manor School in Aldershot, Surrey – which is where she collapsed before her diagnosis.
Kim said: “The consultant referred to it as a ‘heart sink’ tumor because that’s what their heart does every time they diagnose it, knowing it can’t be fixed.”
She added: “The tumor had grown, wrapped around her brain stem which limited her treatment options.
“I was told that children with this type of tumor often have a ‘honeymoon period’ with treatment and I could have at least 10 months with Ellie.
“We celebrated New Year in London and watched the fireworks from the top floor of the hospital.
“I observed the joy in her face as she watched the spectacle in the sky for the first time. It was bittersweet as I knew it would be her last.”
Despite her ordeal – Kim says Ellie kept her “cool, thoughtfulness and kindness” throughout.
She added: “Even on extremely high dose steroids the ‘roid rage’ didn’t kick in and she kept her cool almost all of the time and stayed the kind and thoughtful girl. We managed a family holiday to Cornwall which Ellie loved.
“She very quickly lost her battle against the tumor, and needed 24-hour care as she had lost all mobility.
“My parents moved in with me to help care for her, we did this for five weeks. It was like having a baby again.”
Ellie died in Shooting Stars Hospice in Guildford on 28 June 2022.
Kim is taking on Brain Tumour Research’s 100 a Day Your Way challenge – doing 100 reps of any exercise a day for all of November.
She added: “Ellie inspired a lot of people in her short life. Staff who cared for her, friends and family. I’m doing this challenge for her and to keep her spirit alive in the hope that other families don’t have to experience the heartbreak that I have.”
Mel Tiley, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research, said: “We’re deeply saddened to hear about Ellie’s death of a brain tumor.
“Her story is a stark reminder of the indiscriminate nature of this disease, which can affect anyone at any time.
“We’re really grateful to Kim for supporting us in fundraising and campaigning to help us to raise awareness.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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