Brave Sheffield tot Amber is a Christmas star

Shining light: Amber with her parents Lara and Mark who are so proud of her courage and resilience after undergoing brain surgery.                                          Photograph: Barry Richardson.
Shining light: Amber with her parents Lara and Mark who are so proud of her courage and resilience after undergoing brain surgery. Photograph: Barry Richardson.
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AT the age of just two, brave Amber Whiston has gone through more than most adults will face in a lifetime.

Doctors discovered a tumour the size of a golf ball wedged in the little tot’s brain when she was just eight months old.

Since then the youngster from Gleadless, Sheffield, has lost the sight in one eye, undergone brain surgery, and endured round after round of chemotherapy - enough to have a profound effect on any grown adult.

But Amber is no ordinary child.

Her mum Lara Joyce, 28, said: “She has been through the most traumatic experience, yet she faced it with enormous courage and resilience.

“More than a year on from first being told she had a brain tumour, she is a thriving, active and intelligent toddler - I am so proud of her.”

Now Amber’s bravery has been recognised by Cancer Research UK who have named her a winner of their Little Star Awards, which acknowledge the unique challenges faced by youngsters with cancer.

Lara added: “I am in total awe of Amber and how she is not letting this lump in her head or the loss of sight in her eye put her off her stride at all.

“She is my air - I owe Amber’s survival to the incredible advances that have been made in children’s cancer research.

“The award couldn’t have come at a better time and it will give us something we can look back on this year that is not about Amber being ill.”

Lara first realised something was wrong in March 2010, when she spotted Amber’s eye did not look right.

“It was spinning round like a washing machine,” she said.

Scans revealed a growth in the centre of Amber’s head, surrounding her pituitary gland, and Lara and her partner Mark, who run a sandwich shop in Gleadless, were called in to see the doctor.

Lara said: “Mark went very quiet and I collapsed to the floor. We were in total shock.”

Amber was taken into the operating theatre for a 10-hour procedure. Because the tumour was so deep the surgeons had to remove the top of Amber’s skull and then lift her brain up.

They managed to get most of the tumour out, but a week later another scan revealed a second problem – a slow-growing benign tumour wrapped around her optic nerve, which was causing Amber’s loss of sight.

Just before Amber’s first birthday she started an 18-month course of chemotherapy. She will continue to have the chemo until March next year, but is responding really well to treatment and the tumour has shrunk to a third of its original size.

Lara said: “The doctors are really happy with her progress and this is better than we could ever have hoped for.

“They will continue to keep a close eye on Amber and we all hope the tumour stays stable.”

Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK’s Sheffield spokeswoman, said: “Amber is a true ‘Little Star’ who richly deserves this accolade.

“We hope to acknowledge the bravery of many more children like Amber across South Yorkshire and are encouraging family and friends to get nominating now.”

* Do you know a brave child with cancer, like Amber? To nominate a Little Star visit www.cancerresearchuk.org/littlestar