13/09/2012 16:48 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Schoolgirl With 'Eating Disorder' Had Two Brain Tumours

Schoolgirl with 'eating disorder' actually had two brain tumours Cavendish

Abigail Lightbown had never been a fussy eater – in fact, she had always had a 'fantastic appetite'.

But then her parents started to hear her throw up every morning and even though she was only nine years old, Abigail's anxious parents feared she had been influenced by pictures of 'stick-thin celebrities and had developed an eating disorder.

"I know how some girls are these days seeing all the celebrities in magazines and on TV, and I tried to catch her out," her mum, Bernie recalled.

Abigail's dad, Gary, took their daughter to the GP who could only suggest it could be acid reflux and gave her medication to ease the condition.

Mum and daughter constantly rowed about Abigail's weight loss until after seven months of seeing doctors – during which time she had lost 4kg (nearly 9lbs) in weight.

But after months on medication with no improvement, the youngster collapsed 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 truth was revealed: she had one, possibly two, life-threatening brain tumours.

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.

Recalling the beginning of the ordeal, Bernie, 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.

"I 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.


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.


"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."

Abigail came home from hospital in April last year and started a 48-week cycle of chemotherapy treatment. 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.

Gary thinks Abigail could have been treated faster if there was more widespread knowledge about the disease's symptoms.

Gary said: "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."