Schoolgirl diagnosed with eating disorder actually had two brain tumours that were making her sick every morningAbigail Lightbown was nine when she suffered dramatic weight loss and a
continually upset stomachShe was given given acid reflux medication, but seven months later fainted
She was rushed to hospital for an MRI scan and diagnosed with brain cancer
09:46 GMT, 14 September 2012
When Abigail Lightbown suffered dramatic weight loss and was continually being sick, her parents feared she may have developed an eating disorder.
They took the nine-year-old to see a GP, who could only suggest she may have been suffering acid reflux and gave her medication to ease the condition.
It was not until seven months later, when the youngster fainted and underwent an MRI scan that the truth was discovered – she had one, possibly two, life-threatening brain tumours.
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Survivor: Abigail Lightbown, pictured with her mother Bernie, was wrongly diagnosed with an eating disorder when she in fact had two brain tumours
VIP visitors: Abigail in Bolton General Hospital with her brother Jack and Manchester United Footballers Jonny Evans (far right) and Darron Gibson
Abigail, from Bolton, Greater Manchester, survived the operation in which 95 per cent of the tumour was removed and, now aged 11, recently completed a 48-week cycle of radiotherapy and
Her parents, Bernie and Gary Lightbown, heard Abigail throwing up every morning and feared she was deliberately making herself sick to look like 'stick-thin celebrities'.
Mrs Lightbown, 34, 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.'
Family ties: Abigail with her parents Bernie and Gary and her brother Jack
The truth of Abigail’s condition
finally emerged in January 2011 – five months after she first felt unwell – when she fainted in front of her father during a visit to her
grandmother’s house and claimed she had pins and needles in her legs.
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.
In February 2011, Abigail underwent a seven-hour operation and then, starting in April that year, began chemo
treatment to ensure the remainder of the tumour was not active.
Mrs Lightbown said: 'It
was when we met the oncology consultant I knew exactly what we were
dealing with. I just kept thinking, 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 despite losing her hair, Abigail has only worn a wig twice.
She returned home in April last year and started a 48-week cycle of chemotherapy
treatment, with breaks in-between and continued physiotherapy.
Local hero: Abigail meets Coronation Street star Antony Cotton, who plays barman Sean Tully in the soap
On holiday: Abigail and Jack at Niagara Falls in Canada in June 2010, two months before she started feeling ill
She went for her final dose of treatment in June this year, and she will receive regular check-ups from now on to ensure the tumour does not become active again.
Her parents are now campaigning for greater awareness about brain cancer, one of Britain's biggest killers.
Her father thinks Abigail could have been treated faster if there was more widespread knowledge about the disease's symptoms.
Mr Lightbown said: 'Through our experience 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 are so proud of her daughter. People don’t understand how inspiring and motivating she has been.
'We would have really struggled if she hadn’t been the way she is – she’s only worn her wig twice because she doesn’t the chemo get to her.'
Abigail's father Gary is trekking the Great Wall Of China to raise money for brain cancer research. He can be sponsored at JustGiving.com