A WIRRAL teenager who was successfully treated for a brain tumour has become a young ambassador for charity helping others affected by the disease.
Elliott Casey from Prenton, spent periods as a youngster struggling with unexplained weakness down his left side.
After being referred for physiotherapy, which failed to help, the former Birkenhead School pupil was finally sent for neurological tests at the age of 11 when he and his family spotted his tell-tale facial droop in a photograph taken at their home.
A brain scan then revealed a rare tumour type which is usually only diagnosed in much younger children.
Eight years on, Elliott has become a Young Ambassador for The Brain Tumour Charity, which funds research into the disease as well as raising awareness of the signs and symptoms and offering support to patients and their families.
The 19-year-old is now cancer free and preparing to start a degree in product design at Chester University, said: "Young people are self-conscious anyway and only people who have been through it can really understand.
"That's why I want to help others and it also helps me. It's a two-way process."
Recalling the symptoms leading to diagnosis, he said: "Part of my left side, my foot and my arm, was weaker than my right.
"Doctors sent me to have physiotherapy but it always came back.
"I suffered with it for a few years before anyone thought it might be due to a problem in my brain.
"In the end, we noticed a droop in the left side of my face on a photograph.
"I was asked to do a simple neurological test which was putting my finger to my nose and back to the hand and it showed my co-ordination wasn't right."
Following a brain scan, Elliott had an emergency operation at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool to remove a large high-grade (cancerous) atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumour (ATRT).
He underwent gruelling radiotherapy and chemotherapy that was administered directly into his brain through a tube in his head as well as into his chest.
Elliott said: "I was determined to fight back.
"I was told a few times by experts that I wouldn’t make it back into the same year at school but I was determined to go back to Birkenhead School during Year Eight.
"I managed to prove them wrong and got seven GCSEs."
He is now cancer free but has developed epilepsy and suffers from a tremor.
Elliott and his family are supporting HeadSmart, the charity's campaign to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of childhood brain tumours.
And he wants to show that it's possible to adapt to life after a brain tumour diagnosis and treatment.
Elliott said: "My hair never grew back but I am used to it. It is quite difficult to accept yourself but you are still the same person inside and that is the same for a lot of people.
"Getting past that first barrier helps you open up. I felt quite isolated."
Elliott has also spoken at various events about his experience on behalf of the oncology ward at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
He said: "I have talked to doctors and surgeons from around the world to make them more aware of what I went through and my treatments so they can develop their research and help to fight it. "Also hearing a child’s view makes a lot more difference because we say it how it is.
"It's been a journey but an adventure at the same time.
"It has opened my eyes to a lot but I have taken opportunities from it and want some good to come out of it by helping others.”
Elliott's mum Lisa said. "No-one told us that his symptoms could be linked to neurological problems or a brain tumour.
"Though an earlier diagnosis in this case wouldn’t have changed the outcome, it could have made treatment simpler and less time-critical.
"We need to make more people aware and carry out these simple tests to help spot and diagnose the problems sooner to improve the survival rates against brain tumours.
"The key to this is funding to carry out the research and then make the information available to everyone."
Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of The Brain Tumour Charity said: "Elliott's experience shows why it’s so important to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of brain tumours.
"His determination to help do that – and to offer hope to others affected by a brain tumour diagnosis - is a real inspiration to all of us here at The Brain Tumour Charity.
"We're delighted to have him on board as one of our young Ambassadors and we look forward to working with him towards our goals of doubling brain tumour survival and halving the harm caused by the disease."