Heartbreaking photograph shows the reality of childhood cancer

Sophia Soto is pictured tearfully awaiting cancer treatment. [Photo: Caters]

The mother of a cancer survivor has released a heartbreaking photograph to show the reality of the disease.

Sophia Soto, from Florida, was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma at just 14 months old after unusual bruises developed around her eyes.

READ MORE: Girl with neuroblastoma declared cancer-free after pioneering treatment

With doctors dismissing it as just a fall, an eye specialist eventually found tumours behind her eyes were to blame.

The toddler endured 60 rounds of chemo, 20 of radiotherapy and a stem cell transplant over six months. She was snapped just before having treatment.

Sophia, now six, has been in remission for five years and medication-free for the past 24 months.

Now six, Sophia has been off medication for the past two years. [Photo: Caters]

Speaking of her daughter’s condition, Sophia’s mother Rosie Soto, 40, said: “The picture of Sophia upset really does hone in on the reality of childhood cancer.

“She was having a lead put on her chest for her treatment, which she didn't want, hence why Sophia was so upset.

“I look back at the picture now and wonder how I did it. It was so hard watching my little girl so ill.”

Neuroblastoma is a rare type of cancer that mainly affects babies and young children, according to the NHS.

READ MORE: Childhood Cancer Survivors Are Twice as Likely to Have This Condition

Around 95 youngsters in the UK are diagnosed every year, making up 6% of all childhood-cancer cases, Children with Cancer UK statistics show.

In the US, around 800 are diagnosed annually, also accounting for 6% of all cases, according to the American Cancer Society.

Neuroblastoma develops in specialised nerve cells called neuroblasts, which get left behind during a baby’s development in the womb.

The disease tends to start in one of the adrenal glands above the kidneys or nerve tissue next to the spinal cord, before spreading.

Sophia's parents Javier and Rosie Soto watched her battle the disease. [Photo: Caters]

Mrs Soto became concerned when her daughter develop bruises around her eyes, with no obvious cause.

“I kept taking her to the doctors because the bruising wasn't going away, but they just said it must have been from a bump or something,” she said.

“Sophia wasn't referred for a scan or biopsy until I went to an eye specialist, who knew straight away it was caused by a tumour.

“She was sent for an MRI, where black spots appeared on the scans confirmed the tumours behind her eyes.

“[A] biopsy found tumours on one of her kidneys as well, which led to her stage four neuroblastoma diagnosis.”

Sophia discovered she had the disease in March 2014, aged just 14 months.

After extensive treatment, the youngster has been in remission since that November, but still has check-ups every six months.

The tumours behind her eyes cannot be removed, however, doctors believe they are now benign.

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“Doctors are reluctant to remove the tumours Sophia has behind her eyes as they've said it would be likely the surgery [would] disfigure her face,” Mrs Soto said.

“Whilst they are tumours, doctors are reasonably confident they are not cancerous so we have decided to not have the surgery right now, but it may be something she has when she's older.”

Over the worst, Sophia loves dancing and dreams of one day becoming a vet.

“No one can imagine what she went through looking at her now, she just looks like a normal regular child,” Mrs Soto said.

“Sophia has her moments when she asks about when she was sick and has questions about her treatment scars, but overall she's a pretty happy girl.

“If I was to say anything to other parents with children battling cancer, I'd say to not give up, stay positive.

“It's really important not to compare your child's process to anyone else as everyone battles illnesses differently.

“We're over the moon Sophia is now doing so well. We're really blessed she's such a fighter.”