A Northchapel teenager who underwent cancer treatment, strokes and surgery as a child has become a charity ambassador to help others like her.
At 18, Izzy Colville is full of hope for the future but at just four years old she was diagnosed with a rare inoperable tumour attached to her brain and right eye socket, nose and jaw.
Given just a 30 per cent chance of survival, she endured high dose radiotherapy every day for six weeks and ten cycles of chemotherapy over a year.
Radiotherapy shrunk her tennis-ball sized tumour but left her blind in her right eye, partially sighted in her left and deaf in her right ear.
Just as the family had pieced their lives back together, Izzy suffered a stroke in 2011 at the age of 11. Her parents, Paul and Sarah, were told nothing could be done for her.
Izzy said: “They were told to take me home and wait for another stroke – the ‘big one.’
“But my mum said, ‘I’m not having that.’ How can any parent accept they’ve been told to take their daughter home and wait for something that could kill her?”
Paul and Sarah spent hours researching online and the NHS funded Izzy’s surgery to create new pathways for blood flow to the brain.
The eight-hour operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London was a success and now Izzy only has mini-strokes varying from three a week to one a month, compared to two to three strokes a month before the operation.
Izzy has had more than 40 operations, with the most recent one in May when bone in her jaw destroyed by cancer was replaced with bone from her hip – and she faces more surgery in the future.
Now she is one of The Brain Tumour Charity’s 23 Young Ambassadors across the UK helping to raise awareness and offer support to other young people facing similar struggles, working with the charity’s Young Adults Service.
Izzy said: “If they’d listened, I probably wouldn’t be here now.
“But overall, I have had brilliant treatment and support from the NHS and charities – so now I want to make the most of every minute and give something back to other young people.”
Izzy is now studying for GCSEs in maths and English at Brinsbury College and hoping to go on to study a health and beauty course.
She’s volunteering at a sponsored walk this week for The Brain Tumour Charity, although the 10km route is too far for her to take part.
“Living with my diagnosis and treatment has made me feel isolated and alone at times,” said Izzy, who loves horseriding, singing and gardening.
“I still feel different and left out sometimes when I see my sister and friends learning to drive, going to parties and on dates. I have to be careful at parties if I drink alcohol as then I have to adjust my medication – I can’t be carefree like them.
“But I’m in a much better place now and being a Young Ambassador is important to me as I want to support other young people as I get what they’re going through.
“Not like some adults who tell you everything’s going to be OK when often they don’t really understand the first thing about your feelings.
“I want to use my position with The Brain Tumour Charity to give something back. Now I count my blessings and feel hopeful for the future.”