Our close friendship has helped us win through

TWO talented sports-mad teenagers told this week how their close friendship helped them cope when they were both diagnosed with potentially life-threatening conditions.

Ellie Fewkes-Woodrow, from Carlton Colville, learnt she was suffering with a brain tumour just a few weeks before her friend Ella Sayer was discovered to have a large hole in her heart.

But yesterday, as they celebrated Ellie's 14th birthday, both were able to reflect on making a full recovery.

The two football-loving girls met three years ago through playing for Norwich City's Centre of Excellence team. The bond between them grew as they supported each other before and after their operations and during their recovery.

Ellie, a Bungay high school student, made an emotional return to the team recently in a match against Arsenal.

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She was diagnosed with a brain tumour last August and underwent an nine hour operation at Addenbrooke's Hospital three months later. Although not cancerous, the tumour was much larger than normal.

Ellie, of Airedale, Carlton Colville, said: 'I started out having a few headaches going back a couple of years and we put it down to hormones. Then I began to suffer pins and needles and blurred vision. When I looked to the right I saw double.

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'The diagnosis was a big shock to me: my mum cried a lot and you automatically think the worst. I had a biopsy through my eye before the operation to remove a section of the tumour.

'I recovered really well and was trying to walk the day after the operation. I missed virtually the whole season: it was frustrating being on the sidelines.'

She added: 'Everyone gets Ella and me mixed up. We both have similar names, blonde hair, are around the same height and play in midfield. It helped her seeing me recover, that I was fine and there was nothing wrong with me after the operation.'

A small portion of the tumour had to be left as it was attached to nerves behind the eyeball.

Sports-mad Ellie, 14, also plays tennis, netball and hockey. She was allowed to play football with a head guard before her operation.

Told by doctors to take three months off school, she was well enough to return part-time several weeks early.

Ellie has been supported by mum Liz, stepdad Nick, and brothers and sisters Josh, Chelsea, Jodie, Megan and Harry.

Liz, who works for the young offenders charity Catch 22, said: 'Ellie has coped extremely well with her illness, better than her family. We were crying and hugging when we learnt the diagnosis. When I broke the news to close relatives she was doing keep ups in the garden. It was very emotional seeing her back playing football again. She loves the game and I know how bad it made her feel to be sitting on the sidelines.'

Ella, 14, from Hemsby, has also made a remarkable recovery after a four-hour operation at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in January.

She was also back in action for Norwich this month setting up one of the goals in a 3-2 win against Ipswich.

Both girls were invited to sit in the director's box at Carrow Road to watch Norwich City's match with Doncaster and met star striker Grant Holt.

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