The mum, from Queensland, previously lived a quiet life in Mount Cotton with her husband Shannon and their sons Jack, 7, and Lachie.
The 35-year-old had no cause for concern when baby Lachie came home from daycare with a temperature, although she decided to take him to the pediatrician for a medical certificate the next day.
But the doctor immediately noticed the child’s ‘swollen’ stomach – a sign that something sinister was afoot – and ordered a slew of tests that revealed the potentially deadly cause: Hepatoblastoma, a cancer that forms in liver tissue.
‘I hadn’t even realised anything was wrong,’ Vanessa told FEMAIL. ‘He’s a kid. They have pot bellies. We’d gone camping the weekend before and he was running around and happy. If I look closely, I can see the swelling but it’s barely noticeable.’
’14 days ago our lives were perfect and normal, and now we live in a children’s hospital and have a baby with liver cancer.’
Vanessa Hyland’s whole world turned upside down after a routine doctor’s visit resulted in her two-year-old son, Lachlan, being diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer
The doctor immediately noticed the child’s slightly ‘swollen’ stomach and ordered a slew of tests that revealed the fatal cause: Hepatoblastoma, a cancer that forms in liver tissue [pictured August 2023 – two months before diagnosis]
The mum remembered feeling frightened at the first doctor’s appointment.
‘My heart jumped out of my chest when the doctor wanted to consult the head of the practice,’ she said. ‘I could tell something was wrong.
‘They ordered blood tests and an ultrasound, and eventually told us that there were inflammatory markers which were concerning.
‘My entire world turned upside down when they found a mass on his liver that turned out to be a vascular tumour.’
Nine days after first taking Lachie to the doctor, the tot had to have surgery to have a central line inserted ahead of six months of chemotherapy.
‘Lachie will need a liver reconstruction if they’re able to shrink the tumour,’ Vanessa said. ‘It’s all so horrible.’
Lachie’s mum claimed the child still looks fit and healthy – the same as he’s always been
Nine days after first taking Lachie to the doctor, the tot had to have surgery to have a central line inserted ahead of six months of chemotherapy
Lachie’s prognosis is positive: the cancer is curable at this stage and the hope is that he’ll be better in six months.
‘We’re all praying, but you just never know. The doctors can’t do a biopsy because they’re worried the tumour will bleed. But he has a good chance of living well if we get through this.’
Despite the doctors estimating that the cancer had been growing for over a year, the baby’s slight temperature after day care was the first indication that something was wrong.
‘He looks perfectly healthy – he’s been running around and screaming the whole time,’ the mum said.
Vanessa and Shannon are grateful to their friends and neighbours who have been bringing food and helping with their everyday lives.
‘We don’t have much extended family. Shannon’s parents have passed on and mine live in Townsville. They’ve been helping with Jack but they need to get back to their lives and jobs soon. We’re all on our own.’
Vanessa and Shannon are grateful to their friends and neighbours who have been bringing food and helping with their everyday lives
One of the hardest aspects of navigating Lachie’s diagnosis has been explaining the situation to him.
‘The worst part is not being able to tell Lachie what’s happening. When he had to go into surgery, he went down kicking and screaming. He’s going to wake up with a line in his stomach and pain.
‘And then we have to fill him up with chemo drugs. I hate that we have to subject our child to this. He keeps telling us he wants to go home and making him stay is hard.’
The parents haven’t been able to explain the extent of the diagnosis to their seven-year-old either.
‘Jack knows that Lachie is sick and he needs doctors, but he doesn’t really know what it means to have late-stage cancer.
‘We’ve bought him books and shown him videos but Lachie looks fit and healthy – the same as he’s always been.’
Despite the doctors estimating that the cancer had been growing for over a year, the baby’s slight temperature after day care was the first indication that something was wrong
Vanessa also revealed that the financial strain of the hospital stays and treatment will cripple the family for years to come.
‘My husband and I are both on unpaid leave from work but we really can’t afford to do that,’ she said.
‘I don’t even want to think about the costs of everything after the chemo.
‘I was only working four days a week and Lachie was a day care, but we won’t be able to afford that for at least a few years going forward.
‘It’s hard not to think about money at the moment but we’re very limited in our resources. We’re just trying to work it out day-by-day at the moment.’
You can donate to help out with Lachie’s treatment costs here.