Teen who has battled a brain tumour for over half her life dreams of becoming a doctor like the ‘fabulous’ medics who treat her

Alexandra Thompson
·4 mins read
Lily Hawkins, 16, was diagnosed with a brain tumour aged just six. (Supplied: Brain Tumour Research)
Lily Hawkins, 16, was diagnosed with a brain tumour aged just six. (Supplied: Brain Tumour Research)

A teenager has been battling a brain tumour since she was just six years old.

Lily Hawkins, 16, started complaining of headaches in September 2009, which her GP dismissed as nothing to worry about.

That October, Lily’s balance became affected, prompting her parents, Lorraine and Shane, to pay for a private medical consultation.

The youngster was diagnosed with dyspraxia, defined as a child performing less well than expected in daily activities for their age. Her parents became even more concerned when she started vomiting every day in January 2010.

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A scan eventually revealed Lily had an astrocytoma brain tumour. Surgeons managed to remove 99% of the mass.

The teen has spent the past few years in and out of hospital having her shunt – a tube that directs excess cerebrospinal fluid to another part of the body – adjusted.

Missing school left Lily concerned for her future, but the determined teen managed to pass most of her GCSEs. She will shortly start studying for her A-levels in the hope of one day becoming a doctor, like the “fabulous” medics who treated her.

Lily has been in and out of hospital many times over the years, enduring surgery to have her shunt – a tube that directs excess cerebrospinal fluid elsewhere in the body – corrected. (Supplied: Brain Tumour Research)
Lily has been in and out of hospital many times over the years, enduring surgery to have her shunt – a tube that directs excess cerebrospinal fluid elsewhere in the body – corrected. (Supplied: Brain Tumour Research)

Lily’s parents were unconvinced by her initial dyspraxia diagnosis, with the youngster previously hitting all her developmental milestones.

When she started vomiting, Lily’s GP suspected it was a non-serious virus, but referred her to what was then Milton Keynes General Hospital.

Medics thought the youngster may have meningitis, until a scan revealed a tumour.

“I could see a large shadow on the image and my legs turned to jelly,” said Lorraine, a mother-of-two.

“It felt like my feet couldn’t walk, like I was going to buckle.

“It felt like I was going to lose my first born child.”

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Lily was transferred to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where a further scan confirmed it was a 10cm astrocytoma.

After having a shunt fitted several weeks after the diagnosis, Lily underwent surgery to remove 99% of the tumour in February 2010. The remaining mass was too close to her brainstem to be taken out.

“I remained pretty healthy until about three years ago when I started getting horrible headaches around the location of the shunt’s valve and down my neck,” she said.

Lily's mother Lorraine 'thought she was going to lose her first-born child' when the teen was diagnosed. (Supplied: Brain Tumour Research)
Lily's mother Lorraine 'thought she was going to lose her first-born child' when the teen was diagnosed. (Supplied: Brain Tumour Research)

Lily then endured her first of many surgeries to correct the shunt. She hopes the most recent operation in April will be her last.

“I have spent so much time undergoing treatment that I haven’t even managed to completed a full day at school since around the middle of year 10 and, because of that, I was worried about my exam results but was delighted at the grades I achieved,” she said.

“I am looking forward to sixth form at the Buckingham School, and studying biology, psychology and health & social care in order to fulfil my dream of becoming a doctor.

“I am in awe of my neurosurgeons. They do such a fabulous job, are so caring and are always happy to listen to my concerns and worries.

“I would love to become a doctor in the world of neuroscience although sadly I haven’t got the stomach to be a surgeon.”

Read more: Teen has surgery to remove tumour on anniversary of his mother’s death

Lily is working with the charity Brain Tumour Research to increase the national investment into such studies to £35m ($46.9m) a year; around what leukaemia, breast and prostate cancer receive.

“We are very grateful to Lily and her family for their continued support, and wish Lily every success for sixth form and the next steps towards her dream to become a doctor,” said Charlie Allsebrook, from Brain Tumour Research.

“Sadly, Lily is not alone. Some 16,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year.

“Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer yet, historically, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.”

The petition to increase the national investment into brain tumour research can be signed here.