Inspirational Yorkshire teen who battled brain cancer during school defies odds to achieve GCSEs

An inspirational Yorkshire teenager who battled brain cancer during school has defied the odds to achieve passes at GCSE.

Naomi Savage cc Brain Tumour Research

Naomi Savage, 16, was four years old and due to start primary school when she was diagnosed an ependymoma, a rare type of brain tumour.

The brave teen from Northallerton underwent three craniotomies, almost 30 long and intensive bouts of chemotherapy.

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Her condition is now stable but there is a possibility that the tumour will return.

Naomi Savage cc Brain Tumour Research

However, against all the odds, Naomi sat her GCSE examinations this summer in English Literature and Language, Mathematics, Science, History, Spanish, Music and Art.

Naomi passed all eight of her GCSEs, achieving 7s in English, Art and Music.

Naomi said: “I know how lucky I am to have survived a brain tumour for this long, when the odds were against me. To pass my GCSEs feels like a real achievement. I’ve come a long way since my diagnosis 11 years ago. I’m now thinking about a career in the creative arts.”

Naomi’s mother, Lucy Savage, a nurse from Romanby, Northallerton, said she was so proud of her daughter.

She added: “Naomi’s brain tumour and treatment has had a lasting effect and caused a number of limitations.

"She has limited vision and is sensitive to light. As a result of brain injury, she has processing and co-ordination difficulties, as well as acquired dyslexia. Within school in the last year or so, she struggled socially and became quite isolated for a time.

“However, in spite of these significant challenges Naomi has adapted remarkably well.

"She taught herself to become left-handed and has become increasingly independent. She has finally established some really good friendships.

"She is very insightful, artistic and musical.

"I’m a very proud mum!”

Naomi recently completed National Citizen Service and has been a regular volunteer for the Blue Cross animal welfare charity.

Northallerton School and Sixth Form College, where Naomi has been a pupil since 2015, has provided additional support throughout her secondary school years and helped her through her exams.

Naomi is hoping her next step will be courses in Fine Art, English language and Applied Science at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College in Darlington.

In the last year she has also won a bravery award, presented by Minster FM, and a young volunteers award, presented by Hambleton District Council.

Lucy set up Naomi’s Fight For Life Fund in May 2008, one year after Naomi was diagnosed with the grade three tumour.

The fundraising group is now under the umbrella of the national charity Brain Tumour Research, raising much-needed money for research into brain tumours, and campaigning to raise the profile of this devastating condition.

She said: “As Naomi’s grown older, we have gently altered the focus so now she is more of a figurehead than a victim; more of an inspiration than a sob story.

“We may be out of the woods for now, as Naomi remains in remission, but I’m anxious about the risk of recurrence and late side effects from chemotherapy.

“I have insisted on regular MRI scans and fortunately, it hasn’t grown back since, so we have cautious hope. The fear is something we have to live with. But she is living. Relatively speaking, we are so lucky.”

Head of year 11, Mr Tom Bunn: "Naomi is a very conscientious, diligent and dedicated student, who has an inquisitive and insightful nature. However, throughout her time in education, Naomi has been faced with a huge amount of adversity due to her medical treatment.

"Nevertheless, Naomi has demonstrated a great deal of resilience, determination and fortitude, to achieve a fantastic set of GCSE results. The results Naomi has accomplished are most remarkable due to the impact of her medical history and as a school, we are exceptionally proud of Naomi.

"She is a real credit to herself and a highly respected member of our school community and everyone at Northallerton School & Sixth Form College wishes Naomi well for her future endeavours, where I am sure you will continue to flourish, develop and build on her achievements."

Brain Tumour Research said tumours are indiscriminate and can affect anyone at any age.

Tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated Centres of Excellence in the UK.

It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure.

The charity is calling for an annual spend of £35m in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.

Matthew Price, community fundraising manager for Brain Tumour Research in the North, said: “Naomi Savage is a real inspiration.

To achieve what she has is amazing.

"Naomi and Lucy know that the key to finding a cure for this terrible disease is research.

"Naomi’s Fight For Life Fund has raised over £70,000 to help us find a cure and for that we are eternally gratefully.”

If you have been inspired by Naomi’s story and would like to make a donation please go to