Islington People: Jessica Magnus
After battling a rare cancer from the age of four and a debilitating spinal condition, young Jessica Magnus could be forgiven for letting things get the better of her from time to time.
Instead the inspirational 10-year-old from Clerkenwell has impressed everybody with her unwavering courage and zest for life, shining at her weekend singing, acting and dancing classes, and excelling academically.
Her plucky attitude in the face of adversity has now won her a bravery award from nationwide performing arts school Stagecoach, which recognises young people from all walks of life who have shown remarkable courage or are role models for other children.
Jessica was diagnosed with a large part-cancerous, part-benign tumour of the sympathetic nervous system wrapped around her spine and inside her spinal canal – stage 3 ganglioneuroblastoma – six years ago.
She underwent six gruelling courses of chemotherapy at Great Ormond Street Hospital followed by nine hours of surgery.
Only part of the tumour could be removed, which left her with scoliosis – curvature of the spine – and resulted in her having to wear a body brace for 23 hours a day for five years, and another operation.
Though the body brace is no longer needed, Jessica still has metal rods in her spine which will require further operations in future.
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Despite this, she has regularly attended the Islington branch of Stagecoach since the age of five and sings in the choir at St Luke’s Church, Central Street, Finsbury.
Jessica, who attends Prior Weston Primary school in White Cross Street, Finsbury, said she was “pleasantly suprised” to receive the award and explained how she maintained such a positive outlook through her treatment.
“I kept busy all the time with different activities such as painting and drawing and keeping in touch with my friends,” she said.
She also had some advice for other children who may be going through a similar ordeal: “Ask your friends to visit you in the hospital to keep you company, keep happy and don’t worry.”
Her mother, Stana Magnusova, said: “During her six-year fight against cancer she has just kept positive throughout.
“She is smiling all the time and is a happy child who never complains.
“The bravery award kind of seals the whole six years in and out of hospital.
“It’s wonderful for her to get it and for her bravery to be recognised – we always tell her how great she is and how brave she has been, but now she has an award to prove it.”
Stana added: “I’m very excited about her future and extremely proud.
“She is doing well at school, she has caught up with the curriculum and some of her grades are even better than expected.
“Considering she missed three months of school last year, it is really great.”
nFor more on neuroblastoma and ganglioneuroblastoma and appeals such as Jessica’s visit www.familiesagainst neuroblastoma.org