‘I feel so lucky to be here’ says brave teen

Reporter:

Natalie Barnett

FOR MOST young women, celebrating their 18th birthday is a moment filled with wonder and excitement for what the future will hold, but for spirited Hannah Louise Jones, she has just two wishes.

The teenager, whose infectious personality and inspirational zest for life endears her to all she meets, prays for a cure to protect others from the brain tumours that have blighted almost half of her teenage life.

Hannah’s other wish is for as many people as possible to help save lives and sign up to the Bone Marrow register following the teen’s courageous three year battle.

Hannah was just fifteen-years-old, busy enjoying her summer holidays and looking ahead to her GCSE’s, when came the devastating news that she had developed one of the most aggressive forms of brain tumour.

It was first thought Hannah had suffered a series of epileptic pauses, but her world was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

“It was such a shock and I was so upset. I thought why me? When I heard the news I just cried and cried and I asked straight out, am I going to die?

“Then the tears stopped because I thought ‘I need to fight, the cancer is up for a fight so I need to fight too’, and so that is what I did and will continue to do,” Hannah bravely recalled.

Hannah was also given an immense amount of inspiration and encouragement from her loving family, dad Steven, mum Dianne, sisters Molly, 15, and Alexis, 13, and aunt, Jan Smith, to whom Hannah is particularly close.

“We have managed to stay strong because Hannah is so strong. Hannah has been through so much and such is her love for life she has carried on and has an amazing attitude and spirit, she is our inspiration,” said Hannah’s aunt Jan.

Just days after the devastating diagnosis on August 8, 2008 Hannah underwent the first of three operations to remove the grade three 7cm anaplastic astrocytoma tumour from her right temporal lobe.

In her own words Hannah recalls: “The operation at Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, lasted eight hours and the surgeon at the hospital only managed to remove 5cm of tumour as he said he was not confident to remove any more as it was near my optic nerve and may have damaged my vision.”

Three days later Hannah had recovered well enough to go home and results showed the tumour was not cancerous.

Soon after she underwent her second operation to remove the remaining 2cm of the tumour.

Weeks of gruelling radiotherapy and chemotherapy at Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology followed with Hannah staying positive throughout.

But In a double blow, on February 4, 2009, Hannah learned the tumour had returned and was now cancerous, leading her to have her third operation in which surgeons successfully removed the re-occurring tumour from an artery in the brain.

For the first time in a procedure of its kind, surgeons inserted Gliadel Wafers into the site where the cancer had developed.

“I kept strong and took the news in my stride. Without my friends, family and amazing staff at the hospital, I don’t think I would be so positive, but I am very grateful that I have all of these networks,” explained Hannah.

However during the operation Hannah suffered a stroke following which she had to learn to walk again, and has left her with a weakness to her left side.

Hannah is today free from her brain cancer but she explains that she will never have the ‘all clear’ and will need to have continuous brain scans. However, the longer the cancer stays away, the more positive the diagnosis, Hannah explains.

She said: “I feel so lucky to be here, I can’t quite believe that I am celebrating my 18th birthday when I did not think I would live to see my 16th birthday.

“I love my life, I love everyone in it, and I would not change my life, I have said that I would rather have the tumour so that nobody else had it and that is the way I feel.

Turning 18 is really special. I look at life as an adventure and I am going to treat it just like that.”

Hannah has dedicated much of the last three years since her diagnosis in September 2009 fundraising for the Brain Tumour Research charity under the umbrella of the Samantha Dixon Brain Tumour Trust.

To date Hannah has raised more than £146,000 for umbrella charities and has been named the BBC Switch Teen Hero and the Dee 106.3 Child of Courage.

This year the Hannah Banana charity under the umbrella of the Brain Tumour Research has become the chosen charity for Sainsbury's in Chester who are fundraising in support.

The supermarket, which presented Hannah with a birthday cake and bouquet of flowers ahead of her special day, are planning a string of fundraising events over the coming year and hope to raise £20,000 in support of Hannah and her charity.

See full story in the Leader

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