Rumbi is now 11-years old. When she was just three years old,
mum Chio, dad Paul and brother Tadiwa, were devastated to learn
that Rumbi had Wilms' tumour, a rare form of kidney cancer.
It was during a busy summer. We had been visiting family
down South and then Rumbi and her brother Tadiwa went to visit
friends in Liverpool. Rumbi had a fall whilst playing and
afterwards she was complaining of stomach ache and vomiting. So we
just put it down to a vomiting bug.
Within 24 hours she was getting worse and we took Rumbi to the
local A&E. There she had an abdominal x-ray, which showed that
her bowel had become obstructed and that she had a tumour. She was
then transferred to the children's hospital.
The first night in hospital is all a blur now! I remember
that she needed a transfusion as the blood test had shown that she
was anaemic. She had an ultrasound the following day and this
confirmed that her left kidney was enlarged. Within a few days
Rumbi had a CT scan and went to theatre to have a biopsy and a
hickman line inserted. The biopsy results confirmed Wilms'
Although Wilms' tumour is the most common type of kidney cancer
in children, we were told that it is extremely rare, affecting just
1 in 10,000 young people under 15 years. Rumbi's cancer was
confirmed as stage III, meaning that immediate treatment was
required to stop the cancer from spreading.
The consultant at Royal Manchester
Children's Hospital (RMCH) explained the standard course of
treatment for children, with Wilms' tumour at this stage was a
combination of three different drugs to shrink the tumour to a size
where it would be operable. However, there was an alternative
option available to us and that involved taking part in a research
study to trial a new approach.
We faced a tough decision. The standard treatment with
vincristine, actinomycin D and doxorubicin had a good track record
in terms of shrinking the tumour, but experience had shown that the
treatment sometimes had a negative effect later in life, causing
irreversible damage to the heart and fertility problems.
One element of the treatment trio - doxorubicin - was thought to
be responsible for the complications, but doctors needed evidence
to show that the other two agents in combination were enough to
shrink the tumour.
After weighing up the pros and cons and a lot of soul-searching,
we decided that taking part in the research study was the right
decision for our family. It was a very difficult decision to
make especially when were trying to come to terms with the
bombshell we had just received! Time was of the essence but the
consultant was there to answer our questions and gave us the time
we needed to properly think things through.
The study aimed to compare the effectiveness and safety of
taking two of the drugs vs. three. It was a randomised study,
so we knew we wouldn't have control over which treatment Rumbi
received. But, at least it gave us a chance to avoid
complications later in life.
We grasped some reassurance from the knowledge that those
children who were already on the study, receiving the experimental
treatment (two drugs) were doing well. And, the doctor said
that Rumbi could come off the study and be switched to the standard
treatment of three drugs, if necessary.
Rumbi was randomly assigned to the two-drug arm of the study,
which excluded the doxorubin. Taking part in the study
involved pre-operative chemotherapy for 4 weeks to shrink the
tumour. We used to attend the hospital every Monday where she would
have a blood test, see the consultant then have the
After 4 weeks the tumour had reduced to a size where doctors
were able to operate. Rumbi's operation went well. She needed
more chemotherapy for a further seven months and six radiotherapy
sessions afterwards to ensure that all cancerous cells had been
Rumbi is now a happy, healthy girl looking forward to starting
secondary school. Rumbi and others who took part in the study
have also contributed to changing clinical practice for children at
RMCH and beyond.
The study, which was published in The Lancet at the end of 2015,
showed that removing doxorubicin from the treatment combination
resulted in high five-year survival in patients with stage II and
III intermediate-risk tumours, and reduces the risk of side
"When I'm not at school, I love dancing, reading and playing
hockey. I have a scar (which my mum calls tram-line!) where
the doctors removed the tumour and occasionally have back pain, but
other than that I'm fine. I'm looking forward to starting
secondary school and working towards one day becoming a