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Lyra, four, ‘can’t wait for school’ after life-saving operation

The girl was just five months old when she underwent emergency surgery to remove a brain tumour.

A four-year-old who had a brain tumour the size of an orange removed when she was a baby is preparing to start school.

Lyra Cole was just five months old when she underwent emergency surgery to remove a brain tumour.

In October 2013, Lyra lost her appetite and developed a rash.

She was diagnosed as having a virus but her parents, Ellie Hawkes and Dan Cole, refused to accept the diagnosis – particularly after she started vomiting two or three times a day.

The family, from Highbridge, Somerset, were told by a family doctor on four occasions that the youngster would recover and the virus would clear up on its own.

Unhappy with the diagnosis, they took Lyra to hospital, where she was given a CT scan.

“This revealed she had a tumour the size of a small orange growing in the back of her brain,” said Mr Cole, 36, an engineer with energy firm EDF.

“Ellie and I were numb and in total shock. Although we didn’t believe she had a virus, we never in our worst dreams thought it would be this.”

The operation to remove the tumour took 11 hours.

Lyra was diagnosed with a low-grade choroid plexus papilloma, a rare form of brain tumour that can particularly affect infants, and was rushed to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, where she underwent emergency surgery the next morning.

Lyra Cole preparing to start primary school and her scar is hidden by her hair (Brain Tumour Research/PA)

The surgery was successful but, within months, the little girl was struggling to see due to a cyst growing on her optic nerve.

Thankfully, a second operation restored her sight.

Mr Cole said: “By the time she came round and was back on the ward it was obvious her sight was coming back.

“Lyra looked happy and, instead of looking through us as she has previously done, there was a discernible difference that she was actually looking at us.

“She reached out to touch Ellie’s eyelashes – that was a lovely moment and a nice confidence boost for us all.”

The youngster, who enjoys gymnastics, dancing and singing, is now preparing to start primary school and her scar is hidden by her hair.

Mr Cole added: “Lyra adores gymnastics and dancing, she’s a real performer and loves talking to people.

“She’s so clever for her age, she can’t wait for school and to wear her new ‘nooniform’ as she calls it.”

Lyra Cole with her parents Ellie Hawkes and Dan Cole (Brain Tumour Research/PA)

Lyra now has a little brother, Charlie, 17 months, and “loves” being a big sister, he added.

Mr Cole is calling for more funding to be ploughed into brain tumour research and is working with the charity Brain Tumour Research to raise awareness of the condition.

The charity said brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to investigating brain tumours.

Mr Cole added: “We know that we are one of the few lucky families to be able to tell her survival story. Funding for research into brain tumours needs to be increased, it’s just not enough.”

Hugh Adams, from Brain Tumour Research, said: “It’s wonderful to see Lyra grow up and head off to school. Sadly, positive stories like hers are nowhere near common enough.

“Less than 20% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50% across all cancers.

“Brain Tumour Research is focused on funding sustainable research to find a cure for brain tumours, so more families can see their children grow up.”

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