Family tribute to Leah Brockbank, 6, who died on New Year's Day after battle with cancer
A family has paid tribute to a six-year-old girl who died on New Year's Day.
Leah Brockbank, from Heighington, battled cancer for almost three years.
But her parents say the "vivacious, loving, caring and sociable little girl" remained positive and happy despite her ordeal.
She even staged a miraculous recovery from a state where she was asleep for three months before the aggressive brain tumours returned.
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Now her mum, Louise Wright, 39, is raising awareness about cancer in children.
She says her daughter's attitude is an inspiration to others and believes Leah's love of life pulled her through the most difficult times.
"She was a very determined and very independent girl," she said. "She wanted to stay here and tried so hard. She was extremely brave and was fighting right to the end – she didn't want to go anywhere."
Leah's roller coaster journey started when she was 3 and a brain scan revealed a 5cm tumour. She had been suffering from headaches, vomiting and had difficulty balancing.
Within two weeks an operation had removed the tumour and she was put through four cycles of chemotherapy, spending most of the next nine months in hospital.
Radiotherapy then followed before high-dose chemotherapy, which crippled her immune system and put her in isolation for two weeks.
Ms Wright, who moved into her mum's house after she sold her home and gave up her job, said: "The high-dose chemotherapy was the worst thing I have ever experienced.
"It ulcerated the inside of her body, from her mouth right the way through to her bottom.
"She had stomach lining coming out of her mouth. It was horrendous.
"We were told if she got an infection it could kill her, because a percentage of children die from the treatment.
"It was scary. I didn't want to leave her bedside."
Leah had anaplastic medulloblastoma – a highly aggressive form of cancer that affects 5 per cent of children with brain tumours. However, by autumn 2010 a scan showed the tumour had almost disappeared and Leah left hospital in September.
But worries resurfaced in November when she began struggling with balance again. A scan showed a tumour had grown back and spread to her spine, stopping her walking.
High-dose chemotherapy would have killed her, so she was taken into palliative care, receiving much lower doses.
By July 2011, Leah could not speak, but was still determined to continue at nursery. Then over the Christmas period she fell asleep and her family feared she would never recover.
Ms Wright said: "Suddenly one day at the end of March she woke up. I rushed to get her toys from Christmas because she had not had a chance to play with them.
"It was a miracle."
By April 2012 Leah's tumours had shrunk significantly and by August she was staying awake for longer periods.
Further life-threatening complications followed, but Leah's recovery continued and her speech began to return.
By September she was well enough to fulfil her dream and go to St Francis Community Special School in Lincoln for two days a week.
But then in November she was hit by a cold and a huge tumour was found completely covering the left ventricle of her brain.
Ms Wright said: "On Christmas Day she opened her presents and smiled. She was smiling right up until a week before she died.
"She was awake every day until Saturday 29. She went to sleep until the evening and then didn't wake up.
"She deteriorated significantly through New Year's Eve but fought through the night.
"Then the sun came up on New Year's Day and her heart finally stopped."
The mum is now raising money for the Children's Brain Tumour Research Centre in Nottingham. To make a donation, visit www.justgiving.com/leahbrockbank