Cancer schoolgirl's brave struggle

WHILE her friends have been slaving away for their school exams, courageous teenager Laura Croker is battling through a far more bitter struggle after being struck down with a rare form of cancer.

By Jessica Nicholls

BY JESSICA NICHOLLS, health reporter

jessica.nicholls@eveningstar.co.uk>

WHILE her friends have been slaving away for their school exams, courageous teenager Laura Croker is battling through a far more bitter struggle after being struck down with a rare form of cancer.

The 17-year-old is fighting a cancer that affects just one in eleven million people in the UK.

A tumour, known as an 'Askins' tumour, has grown on her chest wall in the year was due to be taking her A-levels and making plans for university and her future.

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Laura has had to take a year out from St Albans High School while she travels backwards and forwards to Addenbrooke's Hospital for treatment after she was diagnosed in October 2000.

Her parents Chris and Valerie, sister Victoria and brother Matthew have endured a torrid time - but the family has nothing but praise for staff at St Albans and Laura's friends who have all rallied round and been a huge support to them all and now they feel it is time to say thank you.

Valerie, 46, of Nine Acres, Ipswich, said: "The school has been up to the hospital with exam papers.

"When she came out they came round to the house and a teacher sat with her while she did them.

"They even made videos of the classes for her to watch."

Laura is studying media and is hoping to become a film producer. Part of the course was to make her own film but Laura thought she would be unable to do it.

Valerie said: "Her media teacher Jonathan King gave up several of his free days to help her.

The school has made sure that Laura does not feel forgotten and can visit whenever she wants, whether it is to sit in on classes or just to pop in and see her friends.

Laura said: "I missed out on leaving because I am supposed to be in the year below now. But my friends, who I have known for about 15 years, videoed it all for me. It just lets me know that I have not been forgotten."

"I know exactly who my best friends are now and I have a really nice group of people."

The diagnosis of cancer came unexpectedly. Laura said she had not felt ill at all.

"I went to school on the Monday and woke up in the early hours and had a massive pain in my side.

The following day she went to the doctors who diagnosed colic and sent her home but by the evening her condition had got worse.

She went back to the doctors the next morning and she was sent to Ipswich hospital with suspected appendicitis. It was also thought that she might have a cyst but further tests revealed that she had an Askins tumour.

Mum Valerie said: "It was such a shock. Kids with leukaemia tend to feel ill for weeks, but this was so sudden.

When the cancer was first diagnosed, Laura had to endure weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy to get rid of it. But it soon returned as the treatment did not remove the whole tumour.

After an operation to get rid of the tumour, she now has to live with a chest drain in for the next few weeks.

Doctors are confident that they have removed all the tumour but Laura still faces a painful few weeks with a chest drain in before she embarks on another course of chemotherapy.

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weblinks: WWW.cancerindex.org

www.geocities.com/irishcat.geo/d6.html

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