Inspirational Worthing teenager who started Facebook blog loses leukaemia battle
The family of a Worthing teenager with leukaemia that chronicled her journey on Facebook has paid tribute to their 'inspirational' Keira.
Keira Campbell lost her battle with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia on Sunday, January 13 aged 13, after two years of fighting the disease.
Her father Sean Campbell, from Coniston Road, Goring, said the family had been inspired by her positivity in the face of whatever life threw at her.
He said: "She went through an awful lot: lots of chemotherapy, relapses, a stem cell transplant. Even when it got to the stage where it was end of life, she was saying it hadn't beaten her; it had just turned her into the person she was - a confident, caring and loving young lady."
The Orchards Junior School student was suffering from flu-like symptoms and came up in a rash which would not fade when pressure was applied with a glass.
After being referred to Southampton Hospital, she was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer, which attacks white blood cells, on May 4, 2016.
Sean, 44, said: "At the time, of course you are devastated, and you are scared that you are going to lose your little girl. But she didn't give us time to feel sorry for ourselves; she just immediately wanted to set her focus on the battle ahead."
During her chemotherapy, Keira was spending weeks at a time in hospital; so she started her Facebook page, Keira Campbells Diary, to document her journey.
Keira wanted the blog to focus on the positives in her life, Sean said: "She always wanted to show people reading it her character, and not what the disease was doing to her body."
After chemotherapy, Keira got the cancer into remission - but she relapsed. When stronger doses did not work, she was transferred to The Royal Marsden Hospital in London for a stem cell transplant.
She had the operation six months ago, which involved having a procedure known as total body irradiation to kill her bone marrow, which was replaced.
As a result, she had to live in an air locked room in the hospital for nearly four months while her immune system recovered, limiting her access to the outside world - making her Facebook page more important than ever.
Sean said: "A lot of people say social media is a bad thing, but this is a perfect example of where it works in a good way. She could connect with people and remove some of the feeling of isolation and talk to people across the world."
Through the page, Keira was sent thousands of postcards from places around the world including Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines, which she surrounded herself with during her treatment.
The Manchester United fan also received a signed photograph from midfielder Jesse Lingard and a letter from manager José Mourinho, and was praised by authors Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson for a short story she wrote about the First World War while in hospital, which was published in the book Stories for the Young.
But despite the hospital's best efforts, several weeks ago doctors told the family that Keira's cancer was terminal.
Sean said: "Even when she found out she was going to die, she was not worried about herself; she was worried about me, her mum and her sister. She was worried about us being happy after she had gone.
"She was special in that way. She was selfless and so determined to make us promise to carry on and be happy."
They spent their last Christmas together at home, with Keira able to play with her beloved labrador Busby.
Sean said: "The way we talked about it is that you don't always get the chance to say goodbye to someone, but we had this opportunity to make sure she knew how special she was, how much she was loved and how much of a difference she has made in this world."
A poem he wrote for his daughter and shared on her page after she died got almost 1,000 likes and almost 100 shares, sparking an outpouring of condolences.
He said he was 'still in awe' of the amazing work of the doctors and nurses that cared for Keira, and thanked the community for their support.
Her funeral will take place tomorrow at Worthing Crematorium at 1.40pm. All are welcome, and at Keira's request all guests must wear sparkly or glittery clothing.
Donations to Chestnut Tree House or Friends of Worthing Hospitals, to go to the Bluefin Ward play team, can be made here.
Keira leaves behind her father Sean, mother Sharon and sister Caitlin.
The 15-year-old described her sister as 'inspirational', and said: "She gave me the confidence I didn't have before.
"We had so many amazing times together and she became my best friend rather than just a sister."