Brain cancer cause close to home

By Eden Hynninen

Since supporting their daughter through brain cancer in 2016, Wallan’s Karina and Dave Maskell have continued to pay it forward to children in need. 

Their daughter Jenna, then three years old, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in her posterior fossa – a small space near bottom of the skull close to the cerebellum – after falling down some stairs on a family holiday in Merimbula, NSW.

“She was vomiting in the morning to I took her to a GP who suggested she go to emergency at the hospital,” Mrs Maskell said.  

“As most would assume, we were told it was most likely a concussion that could last for a couple of months. Afterwards she continued to get worse, became paler and the vomiting continued. 

“We were all travelling to Tasmania for the last part of our trip but it didn’t sit right with me so I took her to the Royal Children’s Hospital to be looked at.”

Five-year-old cancer survivor Jenna with her eight-year-old brother Blake.

A doctor at the hospital noticed Jenna’s balance was off and her eyes weren’t focusing, which connects to the cerebellum that is responsible for balance and co-ordinated movement, so Jenna was sent to emergency for a CAT scan and MRI. 

“She was lucky the tumor was in a spot that was easy to get to. The day she found out it was her third birthday,” she said. 

“They took it out but Jenna underwent 33 rounds of radiation to be sure they didn’t miss anything.

“She recovered really well, but the doctor said there’s a chance that it could come back so Jenna will need constant checkups – she is having some issues with her speech and spatial awareness.

“We learnt over time that brain cancer receives less than five per cent of Federal Government cancer research funding, but it kills more children than any other disease in Australia.”

Every year since Jenna’s diagnosis, the Maskell family have been raising awareness on children’s cancers (Camp Quality, Koala Kids) and this year they are raising money for the Cure Brain Cancer organisation. 

“Just seeing how lucky we were, we want to give back to people who aren’t so lucky. My husband is doing Tough Mudder to raise money and it will be challenging for him,” she said.

“So many businesses in the community have helped us out with tins for donating. 

“Thomastown Primary School and Upper Plenty Primary School, where Jenna goes, have been amazing. Our family and friends have been so supportive as well.”