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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
23:40 GMT, 26 November 2012
Brave: Abigail, who died on November 10, never complained about her illness and refused to give up hope that her condition would improve
When nine-year-old Abigail Lightbown lost more than half a stone after months of being sick every morning, her parents feared she was starving herself to look like body-conscious celebrities.
It was six months after the family GP diagnosed an eating disorder that they discovered the truth was much worse. Their daughter had a brain tumour which would eventually kill her.
Abigail underwent a major operation and months of chemotherapy following the correct diagnosis, but the cancer returned and she died earlier this month, aged 11.
Yesterday the grieving family spoke out about the tragedy.
‘Given the time frame, it is possible it might not have spread if Abigail had had her operation earlier, but nobody will ever know,’ said her father Gary.
Abigail first started being sick in August 2010 after returning home to Bolton, Greater Manchester from a holiday seeing relatives in Canada.
The family’s GP said that she was suffering from stomach problems, leading to fears that she had an eating disorder.
After Abigail was examined by a hospital paediatrician, she was given a prescription of tablets to treat acid reflux, but over seven months she was sick every morning and lost nearly 9lbs.
‘Her appetite started going – she was never a fussy eater and always had a fantastic appetite,’ said her mother Bernie, 34.
‘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.
‘She 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.’
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.
Celebrity visit: Abigail, pictured with her brother Jack, 6, and Manchester United footballers Jonny Evans (right) and Darron Gibson.
Abigail had her blood tested that December – but results showed no abnormalities. It was only the following spring, after she fainted and complained of pins and needles in her legs, that an MRI scan was carried out at Bolton Royal Hospital, revealing the presence of a tumour.
Abigail underwent a seven-hour operation to remove 95 per cent of the tumour and also had chemotherapy.
However, further tests revealed that the tumour was cancerous. Despite a 48-week course of intensive radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the cancer returned.
Doctors pronounced the tumour inoperable just weeks before Abigail was due to start secondary school.
She died in Derian House Children’s Hospice with her parents and six-year old brother Jack by her side on November 10.
Speaking of Abigail’s bravery in the face of adversity, Mr Lightbown said: ‘We are so proud of our daughter. People don’t understand how inspiring and motivating she has been.
Kind: Abigail Lightbown pictured with Coronation Street star Antony Cotton who paid her a visit
Bad news: Just weeks before Abigail was due to start secondary school doctors said the tumour had spread and was inoperable
Family holiday: Abigail, pictured here with her brother Jack.
‘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’s parents are anxious to warn
doctors and families of the dangers brain tumours pose to the young.
Warehouse manager Mr Lightbown, 44, will trek across the Great Wall of
China with colleagues next year to raise money for Brain Tumour
He said: ‘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.
‘Doctors and families need to be more aware of the deadly threat of brain tumours in children.
‘We just want to make parents and doctors aware that if a child is constantly being sick that it may be a brain tumour.’
Experts say brain tumours are the
single most deadly form of cancer for under-40s, yet receive only a
fraction of the funding for research spent on other forms of the
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: http://www.justgiving.com/Gary-Lightbown-TrekkingTheGreatWallofChina