“Julian was born absolutely normal. He reached all of his milestones on time and sometimes even earlier, apart from learning to walk. After his first birthday we started to worry a bit and took him to many different doctors in Dubai for tests to make sure his legs were normal, but the results came back fine and we were told he would walk when he was ready.
“However, my maternal instinct was telling me that something was not right and I kept taking him to doctors to figure out why he wasn’t able to walk... At 20 months, he finally took his first step. It was such an amazing moment after all the stress we had been through! But six months later he was still not able to run, climb stairs or balance while walking – he needed to hold someone’s hand to walk without falling.
“During our summer vacation last August, Julian suddenly got worse, and he was falling down hundreds of times a day. His doctor suggested a brain and spine MRI scan and the report showed a shocking result. Julian had a cerebral tumour the size of a tennis ball, and late stage hydrocephalus [a condition in which excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) builds up within the ventricles of the brain]. We were devastated. I couldn’t believe what had happened, and for the next five days I woke up thinking it was just been a bad dream and that my son was OK.
“He needed to be operated on as soon as possible, but it had to be in Dubai as flying him overseas was considered high risk due to the pressure it would put on the ventricles. This was difficult as we had very little support in Dubai – Julian was two and Angelo was just three months, but our families live far away and we didn’t really have many friends left in the UAE.
“The surgery day was the worst day of my life. For 15 hours I died and lived a million times – it felt like the longest day of my life. The longer it took, the more hope we were losing. Before he entered the operation theatre I posted on the Facebook Group ‘Real Mums Of Dubai’ asking for prayers for Julian, as I felt I needed some positivity. I ended up being overwhelmed by the number of comments and messages I got praying for my little boy."
“The surgery went well and we were finally able to see him. It was the hardest thing ever; my heart was broken into pieces and my eyes cried him a river. He was put under sedation in the intensive care unit for three days, until the time he opened his eyes and said, “Mama.” My heart jumped and my tears wouldn’t stop shedding. I hugged him and I told him how proud we were to have such a brave hero.
“He slept for a few hours, but when he woke up he couldn’t move and see, hear or speak. I lost my mind, my whole body was aching, but I didn’t lose hope. I spent as much time as I could cuddling with him until, a few weeks later, he gradually got his vision, hearing and speech back. He wasn’t able to walk again until nine weeks post-surgery.
“On Christmas Eve 2018 Julian did his first MRI scan post-surgery, and sadly it showed an enhanced residual neoplastic mass, which will require another surgery to remove it. I am so proud of Julian, he is truly a superhero and an inspiration, despite everything he has been through he still smiles and dances as if nothing happened, I am over the moon when I see him happy.
“Motherhood is so difficult, especially when you have a special case. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and luckily I found a village called ‘The Real Mums of Dubai’. I got lots of emotional support, advice and recommendations from mothers in the group for doctors and physiotherapists that helped Julian improve and recover after his traumatic surgery. He is finally walking without falling and last week, he was able to climb stairs by himself for the first time!
“Motherhood is so underestimated; you can only understand it fully when you become a mother. It is so challenging, difficult sometimes and exhausting. But it is also beautiful, amazing and rewarding: every moment I spend with my kids, every hug, every kiss, means the universe!
My advice to anyone in a similar situation is: don’t suffer alone, cry when you need to, seek support – even from social media friends. Sometimes a few moments’ chat with another mother can help you face your own situation better.”