Anna’s a little star Dunloy cancer victim to launch this year’s Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life

A BRAVE nine year old Dunloy girl, who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in 2009, is to launch this year’s Tesco and Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life.

And what’s more she has inspired her mother to take part in the 5K women-only race to raise money for Cancer Research as well!

Anna Kearns of Main Street was told she had a Medullablastoma which was pressing on her optic nerve and causing fluid to build in her brain, when she was just seven years old.

She immediately endured an eleven hour life-saving operation to drain the fluid and remove as much of the tumour in her head as was safe to do so. This was followed by intensive Radio and Chemotherapy.

And thanks to Anna’s determination and ‘great spirit’, as well as her families commitment and support, the St. Joseph’s pupil is now back at school and has a lot to look forward to including being on the starting block of the 2011 Race for Life.

Her mum Aine explained “At first Anna lost her appetite, finding it hard to eat and began being sick on a regular basis. She did have a couple of minor falls but at the time we didn’t think anything off it. Things came to a head when after taking a particularly severe headache we noticed a squint developing in her left eye.

“This really set the alarm bells ringing so I immediately took her to see my optician Ian McClelland at Adams Opticians Ballymoney. Ian quickly recognised the problem and got the ball rolling. Anna was officially diagnosed on March 25th 2009, that same afternoon at Causeway Hospital. Doctors told us that it was a malignant grade 4 tumour, which is very dangerous.

“The news devastated the entire family. Our world quite literally fell apart when we heard the word ‘Cancer’. She is our perfect little girl and was only seven years old.

“Anna was rushed into the Royal and kept stable with steroids until her operation which took place the following Monday. After three and a half weeks in hospital Anna finally came home. However her treatment was only just beginning. We made the journey every Monday to Friday to the City Hospital for six weeks of intensive Radiotherapy, in conjunction with weekly chemo injections and then a further year of chemotherapy.

“It was totally horrendous - our life just stopped. It was especially difficult for her two older sisters Stephanie and Mary.”

However, nearly two years on, Anna has had her first clear scan and things are looking much more positive, although she will be having follow up scans to monitor her progress. She has also been nominated for a Cancer Research UK’s Little Star Award thanks to her mum.

Aine continued: ”Anna has amazed us all. She is doing extremely well and is in great spirit. She is having physio at the moment as she has difficulty with her balance and co-ordination. But apart from that she’s managing school a couple of days a week and is in great form.

“The intense treatment has caused some damage and does mean Anna will need ongoing medical care, but its a small price to pay to have our beautiful daughter by our side. Some of her hair is coming back and in true Anna style she insists on putting what little hair she has into a ‘Jedward’ style, as she is mad about them. She also loves JLS and Jonus Brothers.

“I know every parent thinks their children are stars but I feel Anna is a very brave and inspirational little girl because of what she’s been through. That’s why I nominated her for a Cancer Research UK’s Little Star Award which celebrates the courage of children who have been diagnosed with cancer.”

Run in partnership with TKMaxx, Cancer Research UK’s Little Star Award rewards every child nominated with a Little Star trophy, t-shirt and bear as well as certificate signed by celebrities including Leona Lewis, Ryan Giggs and the Jonas Brothers.

And it was through this nomination that Anna was asked to also launch this year’s Race for Life which will take place at the University of Ulster, Coleraine on Sunday 12th June at 11am.

Aine added: “After I nominated Anna, members of Cancer Research asked me if Anna would launch this year’s Race For Life - she jumped at the chance.

“Race for Life is a brilliant event which raises much needed money for Cancer Research and that’s why I, and maybe some other family members, have decided to take part in the race to. It’s our way of thanking Cancer Research for their help as without their fundraising, We could be telling a very different story.”

Race for Life

Jean Walsh from Cancer Research UK explained: “A few years ago, Cancer Research UK took the difficult decision to cancel a number of smaller events across the UK, including the North West where the number of participants had been low. However, a strong swell of local support means the charity has reviewed its decision and is reinstating the event for 2011.

“Now organisers are asking local women to show their support and help them reach their target of 2000 women participating in the Coleraine event.”

Noelle Garvey, Race for Life event manager for Northern Ireland added: “We are asking women in the North West to mark June 2011 in their diaries and invite their mums, daughters, sisters, friends and colleagues to take part with them.

“Race for Life has an unforgettable atmosphere with local women of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness abilities coming together to make a positive difference to the lives of people touched by cancer. They motivate and inspire each other to complete the 5k, with many simply walking round, chatting and having fun.

“The website is now open for entries, so it’s really important that women ring the date in their calendars now.”

Anna’s dad Neil, Aine and family would like to thank all the people involved in Anna’s care including the doctors and surgeons at the Royal hospital as well as Adams Opticians for discovering the tumour before it was too late.