Girl, 11, dies of brain cancer after parents feared she was battling an eating disorder and making herself sick to look like ‘stick thin celebrities’

Cancer discovered after seven month battle during which she lost 4kgShe endured two rounds of chemo but never gave up hopeMan Utd and Coronation Street stars paid her hospital visits



19:40 GMT, 26 November 2012

Abigail died earlier this month after brave fight against brain cancer

Brave: Abigail, who died on November 10, never complained about her illness and refused to give up hope that her condition would improve

An 11-year-old girl who was suspected of having an eating disorder has died after doctors discovered she was unwittingly battling brain cancer.

Abigail Lightbown had been diagnosed with stomach problems by a GP and given acid reflex medication after she suffered dramatic weight loss at the age of nine.

Her mother Bernie Lightbown, 34, and dad Gary, 44, would hear their daughter being sick each morning and feared she was deliberately making herself sick so she could look like 'stick thin celebrities.'

But seven months later, Abigail who
lost four kilos was rushed to hospital for an MRI scan after fainting
and a tumour was found in her brain.

bravely battled for two years against her illness and despite losing
her hair, wore a wig only twice and met TV star Antony Cotton who plays
Sean Tulley in Coronation Street and footballers Jonny Evans and Darron

Just weeks before
Abigail was due to start secondary school doctors said the tumour had
spread and was inoperable and she died earlier his month.

Now Mr and Mrs Lightbown from Bolton,
Greater Manchester, are campaigning for greater awareness about one of
the UK’s biggest killers.

Lightbown, a warehouse manager said: 'We think given the time frame, it
was possible that it might not have spread if Abigail had her operation
earlier, but nobody will ever know.

Abigail, pictured here with her Dad, Gary, mum and brother Jack

Undetected: Abigail, pictured here with her Dad, Gary, mum, Bernie and brother Jack was throwing up every morning, leading parents to think it was an eating disorder.

Abigail with her brother Jack and Jonny Evans (right) and Darron Gibson

Celebrity visit: Abigail, pictured with her brother Jack, 6, and Manchester United footballers Jonny Evans (right) and Darron Gibson.

'We just can’t believe how little money and effort goes into raising awareness about brain cancer and the symptoms.

'We honestly believed Abigail had an eating disorder. Yet brain tumours kill more women under the age of 35 than breast or any other cancer. It’s shocking, when you look at the campaigns that go on for breast cancer.

'We just want to make parents and doctors aware that if a child is constantly being sick that it may be a brain tumour.

'We are so proud of our daughter. People don’t understand how inspiring and motivating she has been.

The parents in no way blame the hospital for failing to pick up on Abigail's condition earlier.

We would have really struggled if she hadn’t been the way she was – she only wore her wig twice because she wouldn’t let the chemo get to her.

Abigail first started being sick in
August 2010 after returning from a family holiday in Canada seeing
relatives. She had her blood tested in December 2010 – but results
showed no abnormalities.

Lightbown said: “At first I thought it was down to travel sickness but
at one stage she was throwing up every morning. She was given acid
tablets by her GP but they weren’t working.

'Her appetite started going – she was never a fussy eater and always had a fantastic appetite.

took her to hospital to see a paediatric consultant and they were still
thinking along the lines of acid reflux. We would try and tempt her
with her favourite foods, but it just wasn’t happening.

'That’s when I thought it was possibly an eating disorder.'

has never been image conscious, but I couldn’t think of any other
reason. I know how some girls are these days seeing all the celebrities
in magazines and on TV, and I tried to catch her out.

'We had rows about it and she would get really upset. I have since apologised.'

wasn’t good – Abigail was ill during the day and her mood had changed
as well. She usually loved Christmas, but she just seemed depressed. She
didn’t even touch her Christmas dinner.'

Abigail Lightbown pictured with Coronation Street star Antony Cotton

Kind: Abigail Lightbown pictured with Coronation Street star Antony Cotton who paid her a visit

Abigail with mother Bernie

Bad news: Just weeks before Abigail was due to start secondary school doctors said the tumour had spread and was inoperable

The truth of Abigail’s condition emerged when she fainted during a visit to her grandmother’s house and claimed she had pins and needles in her legs.

She underwent an MRI scan at Bolton Royal hospital and the family were told a tumour – and possibly a second one – had shown up on the scans.

Abigail underwent a seven hour operation to remove 95 per cent of the tumour and she underwent further chemo treatment to check that the remainder of the tumour was not active.

'It was when we met the oncology consultant that I knew exactly what we were dealing with', said Mrs Lightbown.

'I just kept thinking, these things don’t happen to people like us. But Abigail took it really well. She wasn’t bothered about the chemo and got really excited about the aspect of wearing all sorts of different hats and wigs.'

But further tests revealed the tumour was cancerous, and despite a 48-week course of intensive radiotherapy and chemotherapy last April which shrank the tumour, the cancer returned.

She died in Derian House Children’s Hospice with her parents and six-year old brother by her side on November 10.

Mrs Lightbown said Abigail had never complained about her condition and never stopped thinking she might get better.

She said: 'Abigail left an impression and inspired an awful lot of people with the way she was.

'She had a determination and was so brave in so many different ways and she had a wicked sense of humour.'

Next April, Mr Lightbown will trek across the Great Wall of China with colleagues from Kingsland Wines and Spirits to raise money for Brain Tumour Research.

To sponsor him, visit:

Abigail, pictured here with her brother Jack

Family holiday: Abigail, pictured here with her brother Jack.