A schoolgirl died from a rare cancer despite being given the all clear after having her eye removed.
Aleksandra Celic died peacefully at home on November 3 at the age of 15, after her devastated family battled more than six years to find a treatment to save her.
The “caring” teenager from Orpington, south east London, was only seven in 2016 when she developed a lump in her eye which doctors said was ‘just a cyst’, but it turned out to be a rare cancer that baffled doctors
Aleksandra, known as ‘Alek’ to family, went to her local Bromley GP complaining of a ‘lazy eye’ and a lump behind her eye, which she had removed. But to her horror, it kept returning, reports My London.
After her mum Dana Celic, 37, insisted on an MRI scan and a biopsy – it revealed a diagnosis of chordoma cancer.
The extremely rare cancer, affecting only about 20 people in the UK each year, is a slow-growing disease that invades bones.
It usually occurs in the spinal column and most commonly develops in people between 40 and 60 years of age; more often in men than in women – making Alek’s case even rarer.
Alek underwent multiple treatments, including having her eye socket removed, reconstructed from a bone in her leg to eventually having her entire eye removed.
Her Mum Dana said: “When we actually told her eye needed to go, she took it really, really well. She took it better than we did, she was so brave.”
Having no eye led her to be bullied at school by other pupils, her mum added, which Aleksandra found difficult to open up about, out of fear it would cause more worry for her family.
Alek was given the all clear and as years went on the family remained hopeful that the worst was behind them. But then in February 2021, after a routine check, something was picked up on a scan, but doctors said they were not concerned. Alek went back six months later to discover the chordoma cancer had returned.
Alek had the majority of treatments available here in the UK, but was told there was nothing more they could do. Alek tragically lost her fight and died peacefully on November 3, 2022
“She must have been so scared,” Dana added. “When they told her that there was nothing they can do she asked, ‘am I going to die?’. They said yes. I think she was worried at first and then after, she was okay.
“Eventually she became bedbound and she lost feeling in her eyelids so we had to lift up her eyelid. She lost consciousness and was like that for about three days just breathing and coughing.
On the day that she died, we managed to do some handprints of paint on a canvas with her sisters. And she had a big smile on her face. And then about 10 minutes later, she passed away.”
Mum Dana said Alek had a loving family, which includes Dad Milan, 39, and sisters Valentina, 12 and Angelia, 11. The family described her as a ‘shy but loving girl’ who wanted to take care of everyone she met.
Dana added: “She’s shy when she meets new people, but once you got to know her, then she’s really fun. She’s really caring. So she would always help you if she saw you crying or anything.
“I don’t know if she had much of a childhood – it was just operations and hospital. But the whole time she was just so sweet, she would always say hello to people and she was just like that.”
The family are now fundraising for funeral costs with donations remaining given to chordoma cancer UK research.