A brave school girl made it home from hospital in time for her 13th birthday after having a brain tumour the size of a golf ball removed through her nose.

Scarlett Ashcroft-Gardner from Darwen, was only 12-years-old when she endured a nine-and-a-half-hour operation to remove the craniopharyngioma – a benign tumour which affects the pituitary gland and the hormones.

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Her parents, Andrew and Kathryn, first realised something was wrong when they noticed she wasn’t growing as much as her peers, and she began suffering from extreme headaches.

Mr Gardner, said: “We took her for an eye test and she was given reading glasses, but they didn’t do anything to solve her headaches - they only got worse."

The day before she was due to go on a school trip to the Lake District, Scarlett suffered such a bad headache she had to be taken to A&E.

Mr Gardner continued: "They checked her over but we were told to just keep an eye on things.”

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Later, whilst in Disneyland Paris with her school, Scarlett’s headaches got so bad she spent most of the time in a café with her teachers.

But it was an extreme headache in August last year that led her parents to book some tests with a paediatrician at Royal Bolton Hospital.

She was then sent to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital where an MRI scan confirmed she had a craniopharyngioma.

Scarlett was immediately started on treatment and on Monday November 4, she underwent surgery to have the tumour removed.

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Mr Gardner said: “It was the size of a golf ball and had been pressing down on her brain and eyes, affecting her eyesight.

"It was right against her optic nerve so when they did the operation there was a danger her eyesight could have been permanently affected.

"In total the surgery was nine-and-a-half-hours but to me and Kathryn it was ten times that.

"Without a doubt it was the longest day of my life.

“They took it out in pieces through her nose so there wasn’t any scarring and when we went to see her and she woke up she didn’t look any different.

"It was such a relief.”

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Scarlett loved the hospital and the staff, and after spending just 12 days in recovery, the courageous Westholme School pupil made it home in time for her 13th birthday.

Scarlett, who also has a little sister Grace, aged eight, said: “Everyone on the ward was so lovely.

"I was really happy I was home in time for my birthday. I left two days before and it was so good."

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After her discharge, Scarlett was sent for follow-up treatment at The Christie in Manchester, where she received proton beam radiotherapy to ensure everything was cleared up.

And earlier this year she was finally able to ring the end of treatment bell.

Since then, the family’s focus has turned to fundraising to give something back to the people who helped Scarlett.

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Mr Gardner added: “I was signed up to do the Manchester Half Marathon in May to raise money for Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity.

"Due to the coronavirus it was delayed, but has now been cancelled completely.

"So instead I did a half marathon around Darwen – which is a lot hillier than Manchester.

"So far we've raised £5,540 and want to get to £6,000.

"Charities need our help now more than ever so hopefully other people will feel inspired to do something themselves."

To make a donation to Mr Gardner's Just Giving Page click here

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