The parents of an Aberdeen schoolgirl battling a rare brain tumour have launched a fundraising appeal to get her to America for proton beam therapy which could save her life.
Megan McIntosh, 9, was diagnosed with a Posterior Fossa Ganglioglioma tumour at the base of her brain stem in 2018.
Although surgery to remove most of it was successful, the remainder has begun to grow – and doctors have also found a suspicious new growth at the top of Megan’s spine.
Her parents Craig McIntosh and Michelle Reid have now been told surgery is too dangerous, while chemotherapy does not work on the type of tumour their daughter has.
Their only option is to fly the Walker Road School pupil to the USA for proton beam therapy – a pioneering treatment which homes in on the growth while protecting healthy cells.
Michelle, 32, said: “When they told us the tumour had got bigger and they had found a suspicious new growth, I immediately asked what the options were.
“We were told surgery isn’t an option because of where it is – an operation would be likely to leave Megan paralysed. Radiotherapy would only work if she became very sick quickly as it attacks everything in the area including healthy cells, while chemotherapy doesn’t work at all on this type of tumour.
“We all had a chat and got a bit emotional, and at that point, Megan said she didn’t want any treatment. She had just given up, and as a parent that is one of the worst things you can hear.”
That prompted Craig and Michelle to begin looking at other options, which led them to discover proton beam therapy.
Craig, 34, said: “We started looking at our options and we came across proton beam therapy.
“They do it in the UK but they’ve only recently started, whereas in America it’s been happening for about 15 years. They are specialists in it.”
Michelle added: “Megan will be there for about six to eight weeks and will have treatment for around an hour to an hour and a half every day for five days.
“I’ve been in contact with four different people from four different places who have all had it, including one mum whose daughter had the same type of tumour to Megan’s.
“Her life expectancy was a year – and she’s now been in remission for five years.
“We’ve been able to show Megan there is a way out of this.”
Megan’s condition has caused her to lose the sight in her right eye, while she is also unable to swallow. The youngster also requires a ventilator while she is sleeping.
To get Megan the treatment she desperately needs, Craig and Michelle need to raise around £35,000.
Part of the cost includes health insurance, which for the nine-year-old will cost upwards of £4,000 due to her condition.
Michelle and Craig have already set up fundraising pages, while friends and family members have started holding events to raise money – and they have begun a social media campaign, #TeamMegan, to raise awareness.
In less than a week, they have already raised nearly £9,000 – and have found a clinic in Massachusetts willing to take Megan’s case.
Craig said: “If we were to raise enough money to get her this treatment it would mean the world. We would still have our daughter.
“At the moment, Megan’s life expectancy isn’t very long. It’s around two to four years – but if it works, this would mean she is here for the rest of our lives.”
Michelle added: “Megan would be able to have her life. I can’t put into words how much hope it gives us that this treatment is there.
“You just can’t describe it.”
If Craig and Michelle raise enough money, they also plan to set up a charity to provide support to parents in a similar position.
Michelle said: “I have found there is not a lot of emotional support available to parents and that’s something which needs to change.
“We are living a nightmare every single day and if we can help even one person who’s going through the same we would like to do that.”
Craig added: “We have been through some really scary times, but there’s not a lot out there.
“We want to do what we can to help.”