A WOMAN told she was unlikely to live past her teenage years has defied medics to win a gold Duke of Edinburgh Award at the age of 26.
Toni-Ann Wood has battled learning, physical and mental disabilities to achieve the highest level of the award.
She was born with a genetic disorder so rare that medics have not been able to give it a name. The condition has caused a defect to one of her chromosomes, which make up DNA, that affects the genes around it.
As a youngster she couldn’t speak, had tumours on her legs and wasn’t expected to live past her teenage years.
However, Toni-Ann, who has undergone various treatments and therapies to help her lead as normal a life as possible, worked with a team of other youngsters to tackle a 50-mile trek across Keswick and land the award.
Toni-Ann, of Ford Estate, had surgery to have a benign tumour removed from her leg just before beginning the Duke of Edinburgh gold award trek.
She will receive her prize from HRH the Duke of Edinburgh during a ceremony at St James’ Palace on Thursday, May 8.
She said: “It was the most difficult thing I have ever done. It’s my biggest achievement yet.
“I had to work with other people as a team and got loads of good feedback about how hard I worked.”
Toni-Ann spent much of her childhood in hospital receiving treatment for various conditions caused by the genetic defect, including growth hormones to help fuse her bones. Mum Karen Wood, community development officer at Pallion Action Group (PAG), East Moor Road, said her daughter’s achievement is inspirational.
She said: “When you look at her and what she has done, you just think, if you can do it, anyone can.
“Having that disability and doing it – she is just amazing. She was pretty much written off when she was little.
“She wasn’t expected to live past being a teenager so when she got to 19 I was thinking, ‘please let her get to 20’.”
Single-mum Karen will travel to London with Toni, but Toni has asked PAG activities coordinator Marie Mould to accompany her to the awards ceremony.
Karen added: “She wanted to take Marie because she has given her so much support.
“Toni is so naive and asks questions other people wouldn’t ask – she’s very direct – so it will be quite funny to hear what she says on the day.
“She’ll probably ask if she can stay for tea or something. It would be nice if they found a name for what is wrong with Toni so I know what to expect, but it doesn’t bother me.
“Every time she is poorly I just hope it isn’t something serious.
“But even if she did get diagnosed I don’t think it would make any difference to her life because we have worked really hard to give her a good quality of life.
“She loves her life. She is amazing.”