Girl With Terminal Cancer Becomes Parents’ Wedding Planner Before She Dies
A little girl with terminal cancer helped plan her parents' wedding before she tragically passed away at the age of six.
Sophia, known as Fifi, passed away at home in April just seven months after being diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). In her final months, the aggressive tumour in her brain stole her mobility and even her eye sight.
Desperate to see their little girl at their wedding day before she died, devastated parents Julia and Darren Hagreen from Rastrick, West Yorkshire, decided to get married in December - and little Fifi took a lead role in planning the big day.
"We never wanted a big wedding, but we knew we would do it at some point and I couldn't do it without Fifi there," said mum Julia.
"She was our wedding planner. She loved making lists while she was at home, of her favourite food and favourite songs, so she did the same for the wedding - deciding what everyone would wear.
"We got married in Calderdale Register Office, Halifax, in front of our close friends and family and stayed in a hotel. It was not how we would have wanted to do it, but it was lovely to see Fifi's smiling face."
Describing her daughter's heartbreaking decline, Julia said she and Darren first noticed some subtle changes in their daughter in August 2018 when her speech became slightly slurred.
She continued: "Then there was an incident where she started choking on a Babybel cheese and I had to give her some thumps to the back to dislodge it.
"This started to develop into what we thought was a food phobia, and she would have trouble swallowing. Looking back now we realise this was probably caused by the cancer.
"She had lost weight but she was growing up, so we thought it was either down to the food phobia or she was just growing as children do.
"A couple of times she woke up crying and was sick in the morning."
Fifi started to get confused and clumsy and repeating 'I love you Mummy', leading her mother to take her to the doctors and out of hours surgery multiple times in August.
collapsing in the surgery on one occasion, the littlen was referred to Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, where a CT scan revealed a mass on the back of her brain.
"At that stage, it could have been a sign of nerve damage or a virus. It sounds awful, but we were hoping it was a stroke, because at least then there was hope of treatment - anything but a brain tumour," recalled the mum.
Following an MRI scan at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, the couple were sat down by a consultant who gave them the bad news.
"The consultant could not look us in the eye. They took us back to the ward then said, 'We're really sorry but she has an aggressive cancer, a brain tumour," Julia said.
"Darren screamed and walked out and I just sat staring at the floor. It was horrendous news.
"They said she had a large mass in the middle of the brain, which had entwined itself around her healthy cells."
One in an average of 40 children in the UK develop the cancer each year. Affecting almost exclusively children, DIPG is a highly malignant, incurable tumour located in the pons - a part of the brain stem.
"We had seven and a half months with her. At least we got that time, as a lot families do not get to come back home," Julia said.
"Fifi hated being in hospital. Although she was unable to speak, she would write things down. At one point she wrote, 'I'm worried I'm going to live in the hospital,' and 'I do not want to die'.
"My aim then was to protect her from knowing the disease was going to kill her."
Fifi spent her last months doing doing arts and crafts and playing with her pet guinea pigs and kitten Cupcake, as well as taking trips Centre Parks, the Blackpool Illuminations, and the Leicester Space Centre.
"Cupcake was so important, especially towards the end when Fifi had lost her sight. She could still stroke the kitten and hear it purr, which helped her to relax," Julia explained.
Speaking about her last weeks, Julia said: "About six weeks before she died she started to lose her eyesight. She would say, 'Why is it so dark, Mummy?' She would love playing on the iPad and I think it just started to get darker and darker. But she seemed so calm about it.
"I told her it was to do with her 'head bug' and she accepted that. Children are so resilient and she coped with it better than her mum and dad did."
With her parents by her side, Fifi died on 12 April 2019.
Since her death, Julia and Darren have been campaigning to raise awareness of DIPG.
"I want to raise awareness and to keep talking about her because I want everyone to know how great she was," said Julia.
Featured Image Credit: PA