Boy, 4, diagnosed with rare inoperable brain tumour after collapsing at nursery

Zack Molyneux was diagnosed with a incredibly rare brain tumour after his eye turned inwards and he started to lose his balance (Image: Sophie Molyneu)

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Motorbike-mad Zack Molyneux was happily enjoying his fourth birthday when his mum, Sophie, noticed something unusual.

His eye had turned inwards and was facing his nose. After calling the GP, she was referred to take him to an eye clinic. But a few days later, Zack’s walking became unbalanced.

The worried mum called the GP again but was told Zack’s bad balance was nothing to worry about. Unconvinced, she took her third eldest son to A&E a few days later.

“I knew there was something wrong with him, it wasn’t normal. He wasn’t himself, he was just falling into everything,” Sophie, from Eastham, Wirral, said.

Zack Molyneux, pictured with his dad Adam, is a "giggly, cheeky boy"
(Image: Sophie Molyneu)

When Zack arrived at hospital, doctors agreed there was something wrong and booked him in for an MRI scan the next day.

The results showed little Zack had swelling on his brain, but doctors couldn’t explain why. He was transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and kept in for two weeks on steroids to reduce the swelling.

“He’s a protective older brother so when he was poorly in hospital he kept asking after his little sister, Gracie,” Sophie told The Mirror.

Zack has five siblings: Jack, seven, Thomas, six, Freddie, three, Gracie, 18 months, and Arthur, four months old.

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“He just cuddles Arthur all the time,” Sophie said. “He loves him.”

After a fortnight away from his siblings, Zack was allowed to come home and put on another six weeks of steroids to help the swelling go down.

But just a week after finishing his course of medication, things took a turn for the worse. While her partner Adam Topham was at work, Sophie was at home with all six kids because the older boys had an inset day at school.

Her mum stepped in to help and took Zac and Freddie to nursery. But minutes after the boys had been dropped off, Sophie got a call from the nursery workers.

Zack had a brain biopsy after he collapsed at nursery one morning
(Image: Sophie Molyneu)

“They said Zack looked really unwell and asked me to pick him up,” Sophie explained. With that, her mum rushed back to nursery to collect him.

“By the time mum arrived, he was unconscious after having seizures, so she scooped him up and rushed him to hospital with one of the nursery staff. There wasn’t time to call an ambulance.”

Meanwhile, Sophie ran to her best friend’s house just across the street and asked her to watch the kids while she jumped in a taxi to A&E.

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“When Zack got to hospital he was completely floppy. Mum and a paramedic carried him straight inside.

“When I arrived, he was in a room with 16 doctors working on him and two outside the room who couldn’t fit inside,” Sophie recalled.

Adam, who had been working for seven days a week, rushed over to join them as Zack was put into an induced coma.

Then the family followed him back to Alder Hey, where he was put into intensive care. Days later, he had a biopsy on his brain.

Zack adores his five siblings and loves cuddles with his youngest brother, Arthur
(Image: Sophie Molyneu)

While she and Adam waited anxiously for the results, Sophie had a thought she couldn’t shake.

“The first time Zack was in Alder Hey, the doctors said the worst case scenario would be a brain tumour, but they couldn’t find one at the time. I knew now that it was a brain tumour. I just had a feeling,” she recalled.

Staying by Zack’s side, the family had a week-long wait for the results of the biopsy. Tragically, Sophie’s instincts were right – Zack had a brain tumour. But his prognosis was devastating.

The tumour had started on the right side of his brain and spread. It was so aggressive that no treatment would be effective and he only had months to live.

Zack has a scar on his head from the brain biopsy
(Image: Sophie Molyneu)

“I just sat there and took it all in while they gave me all the information. I had to be strong.

“But when I left the room and walked into the corridor, I collapsed in tears,” Sophie said.

Zack’s tumour is so rare his parents still haven’t been given a diagnosis – but he’s thought to be only the third person in the world to have this type of tumour.

Since receiving the heartbreaking news, Adam has stopped working to make sure the family can spend as much time together as possible.

And they’re making the most of every second they have together, setting up a fundraiser to be able to raise cash to do everything they want to do for Zack.

“Zack absolutely loves Toy Story 4. It’s on all the time in our house. If it’s not that, it’s Peppa Pig,” Sophie laughed.

Zack got to meet Spiderman at his brother's birthday party and he can't wait to see him again
(Image: Sophie Molyneu)

“We’re redecorating his room in a Toy Story theme because he’s completely obsessed. And we’ve also booked to go to Peppa Pig World.”

The family is also off to Chester Zoo next week for a fun day out.

“We’re doing lots of crazy things but also enjoying the things we take for granted, like playing at nanny’s house. We’re just giggling all the time and enjoying every minute,” she said.

In a beautiful gesture, the family has planned a trip to Build-a-Bear to make teddies with personalised voice messages from Zack to his loved ones.

Since Zack first fell ill, his siblings have cared for him – especially big brother Thomas.

“They have the best relationship. They’re dead cheeky together but he’s really protective of him now,” Sophie said.

Zack was put on steroids to stop the swelling on his brain
(Image: Sophie Molyneu)

Last week, Zack had a belated celebration for his brother’s birthday – having missed the actual day when he was in hospital – and he met a very special guest.

“Spiderman made an appearance and Zack loved it. He sat on Spiderman’s roof and opened lots of presents. Then he sat in the car and beeped the horn.

“Later he asked if Spiderman could come for a sleepover – he can’t wait to see him again! Spiderman has agreed to come back to visit, and he’s bringing Woody from Toy Story too.”

Although Sophie and Adam don’t know what the future holds or how long Zack has left, they’re determined not to let a second go to waste.

“We’re not the kind of people who have ever asked for money. We’ve always been hard workers but since this happened everything has come crashing down,” she said.

“Zack is a really happy boy. Before all this happened he was so full of energy and didn’t sit still. He’s dead giggly and cheeky too.

“Everyone who has ever met him has a special connection with him.”

Click here to donate to Zack's fundraiser and help him make memories

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