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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Brave Megan celebrates becoming a teenager

A BRAVE schoolgirl who was given just weeks to live as a toddler has entered her teenage years.

Prudhoe’s Megan Armstrong, who recently turned 13, is a popular pupil at the town’s Highfield Middle School, where she enjoys music, crafts and cooking.

But the youngster has spent her entire life fighting a brain tumour, and has undergone intensive courses of radiotherapy and chemotherapy to keep it at bay.

Now every three months, she visits Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary for a brain scan to monitor the tumour, which has caused so much uncertainty for Megan and her parents, Philip and Sandra Armstrong.

She also endures quarterly visits to Leeds Royal Infirmary for eye tests, after years of cancer treatment took its toll on her sight, reducing Megan to pinpoint vision in her left eye.

Philip said: “Megan is able to do the things any other 13-year-old would. She enjoys school and was disappointed when the snow stopped her from going two weeks ago.

“It is remarkable when you consider what she has been through. Despite her youthfulness, she has learned to live with it and is full of enthusiasm every day.”

Life is far from easy for Megan, who was diagnosed with the tumour aged just 14 months, after doctors initially struggled to find out why she had been dramatically losing weight.

The Megan Armstrong Cancer Appeal was set up in 2002 to fund much of her treatment, and has been well supported by local people.

Philip explained: “The tumour is so resilient. Nothing so far has been able to kill it, so we can never get carried away. It has withstood radiotherapy and three courses of chemotherapy.

“Megan is not undergoing treatment at present, but the tumour is being closely monitored and that will continue to be the case.

“Megan has no thyroid functions and has to take thyroid medicine. When she comes home at 4pm she is really tired and goes to bed until the following morning.”

The family, which are considering getting a guide dog to assist with Megan’s mobility, praised the role of Highfield Middle School in her overall development.

Philip added: “She only has a tiny bit of vision in her left eye. In terms of scale, most people have the scope to see the size of an Olympic swimming pool, while Megan is looking through a thimble.

“The school has been absolutely fantastic. Teachers and pupils have been wearing masks so they can understand Megan’s restricted vision, and have been learning to guide her.

“She loves taking part in the activity clubs at school, and she regularly goes to the car boot sale at Hexham Auction Mart, helping her mother with the stall.

“I sometimes take her to the golf course, and she has a go at putting. She gets a wonderful sense of satisfaction when she hears the ball go into the hole, and there’s a beaming smile on her face.”

The youngster enjoys horse riding and is a member of the Slaley Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA).

Megan’s involvement with the association saw her meet Princess Anne in October 2010, at the opening of the RDA’s Pegasus Riding Centre, in Morpeth.

“We are very proud of Megan,” said Philip. “As a very young child she was only given four weeks to live and since then there have been a lot of ups and downs.

“I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has supported Megan and the cancer appeal over the years.”

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