Matric student. Madonna Matthews. Brain tumor. Vuyo Mkize. 301112. Picture: Chris Collingridge 870

When Madonna Matthews was only nine years-old, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour the size of a plum.

“She had a tremble in her left hand… her co-ordination started to go, she started vomiting and was nearly going into a coma,” her mother Irene said, staring at her now 18-year-old daughter next to her.

What followed after her diagnosis was something that her parents could never have anticipated.

“She had two operations, the first operation was four hours long, the second was 12 hours… but she had a brain bleed.

“She came out and couldn’t lift her head, she couldn’t talk, she couldn’t blink her eyes. They (doctors) said she would never walk again,” her father Richard continued, choking up with emotion.

Madonna was admitted to Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital for six weeks of intensive therapy after the surgeries.

“Our lives had to be put on hold, it was a very dark time… but every day she was taking baby steps in progress. But there was no decision, when it’s your daughter there’s no decision, you soldier on,” he continued.

It was six weeks after Madonna was brought back home from hospital that the Matthews family began to see real progress.

The family had been watching a show on TV and Matthews (Richard) had been struggling to remember the name of the character, “She (Madonna) whispered ‘Yogi’ and we just couldn’t believe it! We were so happy,” he said.

With the speech therapy sessions she was attending at the hospital, Madonna started regaining her speech. She defied the odds and with intense therapy, today she can walk and talk again.

“They called her the miracle child,” her mother said, beaming with joy.

Madonna herself remembers little of her ordeal nine years ago but what she held firmly throughout was her will to get better.

“I always wanted to do better… to get back to the way I was before,” she said.

And getting back to how she was meant that she would challenge herself to going back to school – but she still had to take baby steps.

Last month , Madonna completed her matric exams at Assumption Convent School and her family say she was nothing short of “overjoyed”. She matriculated with a diploma pass.

“We couldn’t have done all this without our support base of close family and friends and the doctors at Charlotte Maxeke who were fantastic! She also had the help of a phenomenal scribe and reader to assist her at school and she too was so dedicated. She was awarded the principal’s award for being an outstanding pupil,” Matthews (Richard) added.

And now Madonna is looking forward to tackling her next challenge, studying towards a degree in education at Wits. -Saturday Star