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27th May, 2022

Brave Droitwich student who battled brain tumour urging people to raise awareness on World Cancer Day

Tristan Harris 27th Jan, 2022 Updated: 28th Jan, 2022

A BRAVE Droitwich student who battled a brain tumour is urging others to ‘band together’ for World Cancer Day next Friday, February 4,

Ella Gibbs, 19, made the plea for people to raise awareness about the disease on the day which will be the ninth anniversary of her life-saving brain tumour surgery and the 20th birthday of Cancer Research UK.

Ella was diagnosed with a pilocytic astrocytoma in 2013 at the age of ten after collapsing with a sudden seizure at home after months of unexplained headaches.

Despite two operations at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, it was impossible to surgically remove the entire tumour due to its difficult position right next to her brain stem. Ella was referred abroad for proton beam therapy, which at the time was only available in the United States.

Now studying for a degree in Education with Psychology at the University of Bath, Ella said the ‘wonderful normality’ of her life would never have been possible without life-saving treatment in both the UK and the United States.

In 2019, Ella made it to Crufts with her agility dog, Lulu, a gift from her parents who made the promise of ‘a white puppy’ before Ella’s neurosurgery at the age of ten.

After three months of proton beam therapy in Oklahoma, Ella returned home to Droitwich, and in October 2014 her delighted parents were told she was in remission.

Although Ella’s brain tumour and treatment led to the loss of some of her peripheral vision, she is now able to lead a completely normal life, even passing her driving test last year.

Ella said: “All I ever wanted was a normal life. From the moment the cancer was diagnosed I just kept saying to my parents that I wanted things to go back to normal.

“I wanted to go to school, to see my friends, and to do all those ordinary things we take for granted until we lose them.

“Getting a puppy was a big part of that normality for me. My parents promised me a white puppy as I went under the anaesthetic. When I woke up, my first words were: ‘Where’s the puppy?’.”

Lulu helped Ella have a focus and enabled her to forget she had cancer and training her to be an agility dog and getting to Crufts was a key part of her recovery.

A stint volunteering with children at Acorns Hospice for her Duke of Edinburgh award inspired Ella to become a teacher, and she is now in the first year of her degree.

Ella believes she owes her life to progress in cancer research and hopes that her story will inspire others to play a part in the fight against the disease.

She said: “I know I have been extremely lucky and I’m so grateful for the treatment that saved my life.

“Proton beam therapy wasn’t available in the UK when I was ill, I was one of a small cohort of children who were suitable for treatment in the United States.

“Thanks to ongoing research, proton beam therapy is now available in the UK and more people are able to benefit from it.”

She said 20 years ago the outcome may not have been the same for her and it is thanks to cancer research she is where she is today.

She is urging everyone in Worcestershire to buy one of Cancer Research UK’s Unity Bands to help fund future research and help others.

Unity Bands are available in Cancer Research UK shops and online at cruk.org/worldcancerday for a suggested donation of £2.

Click the play button at the top of this story to watch a video detailing more about Ella and the Unity bands.

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