The Guilder Family


The Guilder’s Story

Our beautiful daughter, Poppy, was a healthy & happy baby, when she was diagnosed with a huge brain tumour in March 2004, aged just 14 months.

Her only symptom was an occasional squint spotted by our GP and, after seeing a local ophthalmologist, we were referred to the eye department at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. At her appointment, Poppy saw a nurse, then a doctor & finally a consultant. The consultant asked us if Poppy had ever had meningitis or a bump to her head ‘as significant as being in a car crash’. We answered ‘no’. He explained that Poppy had no sight in her right eye, that there was something causing damage to her optic nerve & that they would need to carry out a brain scan. I remember asking ‘when?’ & when the consultant answered ‘tomorrow’. I put my head in my hands & asked, ‘You are not looking for a brain tumour, are you?’ & he explained that they needed to rule that out first. I was then sick in the sink in the little room.

That night was a blur as we prepared ourselves to take Poppy for her MRI the next day. The consultant had promised us the results by Friday. Poppy was sedated & then taken down for her scan. I had cried all morning & continued crying all through the scan. When we came out of the scanner, none of the nurses could make eye contact with us. I kept saying ‘they know it’s bad’ with Brian trying so hard to reassure me that I was just being paranoid. He kept saying that Poppy had no symptoms, that she was fine. Looking back, I’m not sure which was worse – me being eaten up by terrible fear that Poppy was going to die, or Brian absolutely believing that she would be fine.

The nurses had told us that we could take Poppy home an hour after she had woken up from sedation, but after that hour had passed, then another hour, they still would not let us go home, adding further to my paranoia. Then Brian was asked to take a phone call from the consultant, who was in London that day. As I watched my strong, positive husband crumple on the phone in the ward office, I knew it was as bad as I had feared. Brian had been told that there was a tumour & it was much bigger than anyone had expected. I had never heard of an Oncologist before, but we were told that one would be coming up to speak to us.

Looking at Poppy’s first scans, the only thought going through my head was that she was going to die. How could she survive that? The on-call-Oncologist was not a brain tumour specialist so he could not answer many of our questions, but we were allowed home with an appointment the next morning to see a Neurosurgeon. I remember coming out of BCH that day, to see the world was still carrying on as normal. I had expected that it would have stopped, our world certainly had.

That was just the start of an epic journey for Poppy. To date she has endured 5 brain surgeries (the longest lasted 10 hours in 2018), 2 years of chemotherapy, 6 weeks of radiotherapy, over 70 MRI scans and countless other tests and procedures. The tumour and treatment have taken Poppy’s sight in her right eye and left her with many other lifelong issues and some tumour still remains. However, Poppy is full of positivity and happiness and lives her life to the fullest.

Me & Dee have always been there for us. Poppy’s wonderful fairy godmother, Maria, ‘waves her wand’ whenever times are particularly tough and has given our family the most wonderful memories. Life is so very unpredictable and having a child with cancer makes you cherish every single day. Being able to spend precious time together on a Me & Dee holiday really has made a difference to our family and we will be forever grateful.

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