Ruby Owen: Tributes paid as brave five-year-old loses cancer battle
FOR three years, young Ruby Owen has stolen our hearts with her brave fight against cancer.
Through an initial eight-hour operation in 2009 to attempt to remove her brain tumour, countless bouts of chemotherapy and two trips to the U.S. for pioneering treatment, Ruby has smiled through her ordeal.
• GALLERY: Brave Ruby Owen
Well-wishers and charities helped to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to pay for Ruby's treatment as they prayed for a cure for the Kidsgrove schoolgirl.
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But the five-year-old's fight ended yesterday afternoon when she died at the Donna Louise Children's Hospice Trust, in Trentham Lakes.
In an emotional tribute to their daughter, parents Martin and Rachel Owen told their 8,000 followers on Twitter: "Ruby has slipped away from us. She is with the angels now. Heartbroken. Thank you for the support."
Shortly afterwards, a message from Martin read: "Just to let you all know our little princess slipped away quietly. She is now with the angels being cared for by the Lord.
"We will miss you dearly sweetheart. Thank you all again for all the effort."
Ruby has been at the Treetops hospice since September.
Hospice fund-raising director Melanie Mills said: "Ruby Owen passed away peacefully at the hospice surrounded by her family. Her family continue to receive support from the hospice."
LITTLE Ruby's courageous battle captured the hearts of the nation.
But while thousands once prayed for the youngster to be saved, today they were united in grief.
Parents Martin and Rachel yesterday announced their daughter had 'quietly slipped away', triggering waves of tributes from well-wishers and supporters.
Within minutes of the couple's Twitter post, hundreds of kind messages flooded in – and were still coming in today.
Meanwhile, fund-raisers who helped bring in around £250,000 to finance two trips to America for bouts of pioneering treatment added their own touching tributes.
One described Ruby, aged five, of Kidsgrove, as a 'brave little smasher' who was cruelly struck down by the brain tumour she had battled most of her life.
Others said the whole town had been rooting for her and would now be in mourning for weeks.
The end had been expected since last October when doctors discovered more tumours despite Ruby completing 10 weeks of radiation. However, yesterday's news still left many in shock.
Ruby had been undergoing palliative care at the Donna Louise Hospice in Trentham where, along with other youngsters, she was treated in her final weeks to a surprise visit by a firemen with their fire engine.
The call-out by a crew from Longton's Green Watch was set up by firefighter Andy Litherland.
He had organised a sponsored car wash in 2009 to help trigger what was to grow into one of the area's biggest fund-raising campaigns.
Now a crew manager at Sandyford, Andy, aged 44, and others then at Kidsgrove fire station generated £510 at the town's Tesco store.
He said: "It was not a massive sum but raises awareness about Ruby and set the ball rolling. I've known Martin for 15 years through football and so got to know Ruby. She was a little smasher and so brave.
"Even though she had to go to America for therapy she was excited about going on a plane and would play at opening and shutting car doors as if they were in the cabin.
"She also loved fire engines and was so thrilled when we took her on one.
"The treatment gave her three years and while we knew the end was near it is still such an tragedy. The whole of Kidsgrove will be mourning for some time for little Ruby."
Celebrities such as comic Lee Mack joined the push to reach the target, and led events in pubs, shops, factories and offices.
Joanne Leighton, aged 38, of Kidsgrove, organised a fund-raising calendar.
She said: "We are devastated. I'm proud to have known Ruby and am grateful we were allowed to help. She was a lively, perfect, precious girl."
Family friend Donna Downs, aged 35, from Kidsgrove who organised a fun day in 2009, added: "One part of me thinks Ruby is finally at peace but I am still heart-broken.
"She always had such a broad smile which kept us going.
"The treatment bought time for the parents to say a proper goodbye."
Leave your tributes to Ruby below.