A footballer is celebrating being back on the pitch just three months after she had surgery for a brain tumour.
Danielle Gibbons, from Chorley, is now back in action for Liverpool Ladies FC – wearing a protective headguard over the hole in her skull left by the surgery.
The 23-year-old, who graduated from the University of Central Lancashire with a first class degree in Sports Science, has been left completely deaf in one ear, after undergoing surgery to remove a benign brain tumour.
But brave Danielle was determined not to let her illness ruin her dreams and she has since returned to competitive football.
The goalkeeper is now back to full fitness and playing for Liverpool Ladies, having recently made her first appearance in the Women’s Champions League.
She said: “It all started in March 2014. I just woke up one morning with tinnitus in my left ear and a dullness of hearing.
“We’d trained on a 3G pitch the night before with little rubber balls, so I thought one of them had got stuck in my ear.
“I went to the hospital and they said I had a cold. I knew I did not have a cold so I went to see my doctor.
“He said there was a one in a million chance that it was a tumour but he sent me for tests.
“That is when they discovered that I had a benign tumour.
“The medical staff were telling me all this information but all I could hear was the word ‘tumour’.
“It took quite a while to sink in. Initially, they said I would not require treatment that they would just watch and wait.
“In November 2014 they discovered it was growing. Because I was young they said age was on my side and so they recommended that I have surgery.
“Now it has been removed but it has left me permanently deaf in my left ear and I have a hole in my skull that will always be there.
“I was always determined to get myself back on the pitch, even if it was playing deaf football but now I’m back and I’m raring to go.
“I didn’t want the tumour to beat me, I didn’t want to have to give up the sport I love, and it was amazing to prove to myself that I could still do it when I made my comeback at Bristol in October.”
The former Preston North End Girls and Euxton Girls shot-stopper has to wear a protective skullcap like the one Arsenal keeper Petr Cech wears.
The Czech Republic No 1 has worn the foam headguard ever since fracturing his skull in a collision with Stephen Hunt at Reading in October 2006.
She said: “I wear a protective skullcap for my parents’ peace of mind and it helped to build my confidence back up and reassure me that I would be fine on the pitch.
“It wouldn’t be life-threatening if I was kicked in the head.
“I had so many mixed emotions making my comeback.
“It was quite an emotional day and the most nervous I have ever been before a game.”
And now Danielle is urging others not to give up and she is now eyeing an England call-up.
She said: “There is nothing holding me back this year. I’m hoping to get an England cap.
“I’ve been to a training camp but to actually be in the squad would be a major accomplishment.”
Danielle praised her family and her ‘football family’ for helping her through the uncertain time.
She said: “I went to see the girls play and they supported me the whole way. I got a lot of support from my family and from the whole football community.”