Brave girl Sophie is a Little Star!

Little Sophie Burchill is only two years old but has already been through more than most people get thrown at them in a lifetime.

A brain tumour diagnosis, emergency surgery, four further operations, 16 gruelling months of chemotherapy - the list is long and hard to swallow, particularly for someone so young.

Now the resilience and bravery she has shown throughout the whole ordeal has landed her a Little Stars Award from Cancer Research UK, designed to recognise the courage shown by children and young people when they are faced with such an ordeal.

Dad Peter said: "She has been so brave throughout the whole thing and it's a fantastic thing that the charity has organised to reward children like her who have been through so much. We are really so proud of her."

Paul Wadsworth from Cancer Research added: "Sophie is a true Little Star who richly deserves this accolade. She has shown amazing courage throughout her treatment and is an inspiration to all."

Sophie, who lives with Peter and mum Abigail in Hillsborough, was just 11 months old when the shocking diagnosis arrived.

She had been suffering with vomiting and a stiff neck, and various conditions were suggested as the cause before her condition deteriorated and she was taken to Sheffield Children's Hospital.

Meningitis was investigated but dismissed before a CT scan found the presence of a tumour in her brain.

To add to the couple's shock, they were told Sophie would have to undergo emergency surgery that night since as lots of pressure was being exerted on the fluid around her brain.

Peter, aged 35, said: "It was totally devastating - almost like an out-of-body experience really. It was something that you can never be prepared for - just complete shock and disbelief."

The initial procedure went well and meant Sophie's condition was stabilised.

But just four days later she had to return to theatre for a 14-hour procedure to remove the cancerous mass.

Peter said this was a horrendous time for the family as they sat waiting and worrying.

"She was in there such a long, long time," he said. "By the end we were just pacing up and down, desperate to know how it was going.

"In the end it was all relatively straightforward, the only complication being a fit she suffered towards the end of the operation.

"When you think about it afterwards, it's amazing how these people do these jobs - the tumour was actually entwined around her brain, it wasn't isolated, so any kind of slip and it could all have gone wrong."

Sophie suffered some short-term side effects as a result of the surgery such as being unable to swallow but, although she is now deaf in one ear, the rest faded over time.

A biopsy was carried out on the mass which had been removed which discovered it was an ependymoma tumour - described by doctors as an "aggressive" type.

It meant yet more heartbreak for the Burchills as they were told that a 12-month course of chemotherapy would be required.

In the event, with various complications - including three further operations to fit devices to administer the drugs and several blood and platelet transfusions - the whole process took around 16 months and was finished in the middle of December.

Today she is doing "fantastically well" with regular check-ups and scans at the children's hospital keeping track of her progress.

Peter said it was amazing to see her complete the treatment and added that he, Abigail and the rest of the family were so proud at how well she had coped.

"She has done so well throughout it all," he said.

"She lost her hair, she had to be fed through a tube, she was obviously in a lot of pain and discomfort but it was amazing to see how quickly she would bounce back after each treatment.

"During this whole process she has grown up from a baby into an active toddler. Towards the end of her time in hospital she was running up and down the ward, her drip stand trailing behind her! It's amazing how resilient she has been.

"It's so lovely now to see her character developing - her confidence and energy levels have increased since the end of the treatment and we're just so pleased that she is now finally through it."

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