Georgia's smile shines through despite her brave battle against illness
A TEENAGER has achieved top marks despite having to fight agonising pain from a one-in-36,0000 condition that struck down three other members of her family.
Georgia McDonough, who turns 16 tomorrow, is bravely battling the same rare medical disorder that struck down her mum, grandmother and aunt.
As a result of having genetic condition von Hippel-Landau syndrome Georgia had to overcome "absolute agony" to achieve top grades in her coursework and exams.
The condition causes cancerous and non-cancerous tumours and cysts in many parts of the body – and those who have it have a 50/50 chance of passing it on to their child.
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Georgia, from Somercotes, said her ordeal was like being in hell. She said: "The headaches – oh my God, I was in agony. Absolute agony. And it lasted for two weeks."
Last night, Georgia was among 95 Derbyshire youngsters who picked up awards at a Young Achievers ceremony held in Matlock.
She was only five years old when her mum was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It was horrendous news – but the horrifying discovery that was later unearthed as a result defied the unthinkable.
Analysis of the tumour found it had stemmed from von Hippel-Landau syndrome, which affects just one in 36,000 people.
Georgia was diagnosed with the condition, aged only seven. And in November last year, when she was 14, doctors found a tumour the size of a golf ball inside her adrenal gland, on her kidney, which she had removed in February. It meant she joined her mum, aunt and grandmother in having to come to terms with the terrifying news that a tumour was growing inside them.
Although Georgia's was non-cancerous, it caused her to endure a constant painful headache lasting two weeks, while her blood pressure became "sky high".
The medication she was on then left her feeling exhausted to the point she could only manage half-days at school.
In February, surgeons successfully removed the tumour during a gruelling eight-hour operation.
Despite going through hell, Georgia – who has ambitions of becoming a criminal lawyer – has not allowed illness to interfere with her studies.
She was nominated for a Derbyshire County Council Young Achievers award by Rosie Severn, who is one of her teachers at Swanwick Hall School.
Mrs Severn said: "Georgia has had to take a lot of time away from school to attend medical appointments and had surgery earlier in the year.
"Despite all this, she has continued to demonstrate determination to keep up with her work and her positivity and upbeat approach to life has helped her achieve all her expected GCSE grades – including an A* for her German coursework.
"She has never complained about her situation and she is an outstanding role model to other students."
Georgia's mum, Alison, who herself has beaten kidney cancer due to the condition but is now having to fight a second brain tumour, said her daughter had been incredibly brave.
She said: "She has had to go through so much and yet doesn't complain. When she was fighting her own tumour, it caused her to be so shattered.
"The medication she was on made her face turn grey and she would come home from school and go straight to sleep.
"When the doctors confirmed she had a tumour, it was awful. I could relate to how ill she was feeling and I just felt I had passed it on to her, my own daughter.
"I remember my mum saying the same thing to me. It's dreadful."
Georgia said her coping mechanism was to be positive and continue working hard at school. She said: "It's such a rare illness and, yes, I do feel so unlucky to have it. But you just have to get on with it.
"When I was diagnosed with it, it didn't really sink in. I just cried and cried and cried. I thought, why me?
"By the time I was 14 and the doctors found I had a tumour, I was fine. I thought they are going to take it out so it will be fine."
Speaking of her own battle with von Hippel-Landau syndrome, Alison said: "I became ill in 2002. I was suffering with headaches and my coordination. I couldn't walk. I had to take Georgia to school holding on to walls.
"I went private and they said I had a brain tumour. When they took it out an analysed it, they found I had von Hippel-Landau syndrome.
"They said Georgia couldn't be tested until she was seven. At the time she was tested, my mum had cancer and also tested positive. Sadly she died because it wasn't caught early enough.
"My sister also has it and has tumours behind her eye. She's all right at the moment but it can make you go blind.
"On the positive side, by knowing you have the condition you get checked every year, so if a tumour is present it is found quickly.
"I had kidney cancer a few years ago but it was picked up quickly enough for me to have treatment and for it to be taken away.
"I've also had a multiple cyst in my kidney and a mass in my pancreas.
"There's no cure for this, just operations. It scares me that Georgia could have all this to come."
Georgia's dad, Grahame, 44, said he was proud of both his wife and daughter. He said Georgia fully deserved her Young Achievers award.
"She just seems to not let it bother her," said Grahame. "She's very strong-willed and just deals with it."