A BRAVE schoolgirl who touched the hearts of Hyndburn folk has lost her three-year battle against cancer.
Emma Archer - affectionately called Emms by her family - died at her home in Broadfield Road, Accrington.
Her death came just six days after her brother Alan, 19, received the all-clear from doctors after suffering a brain tumour.
Emma, 13, was first diagnosed with cancer three years ago and her plight was revealed by the Observer in an exclusive front page story in July 2001, which sparked a fund-raising campaign to help her.
But on Wednesday family members, including devastated mum Debbie, stepdad Stephen, brother Alan and sisters Laura, 15, and Paige, 8, gathered for her funeral service at St Peter's Church in Accrington.
Debbie, 39, said: "She is going to be sorely missed by everyone."
"She was my rock and we were always there for each other."
Stephen, 44, added: "She never complained once about her condition and always put others before herself. She was brave to the very end. I looked on her as my own daughter."
The family's nightmare started when Debbie spotted a small lump on Emma's back. At first the lump was thought to be a harmless abscess and Emma was sent home with antibiotics.
But the drugs had no effect and within days the lump had doubled in size. Emma was referred to a bone specialist at Blackburn Royal Infirmary but her face suddenly swelled up and she had to be rushed to Pendlebury Children's Hospital where she underwent rigorous tests, X-rays and scans.
Debbie continued: "Emma had her first biopsy on her 11th birthday and she wasn't very pleased because everyone ate her birthday cake. She spent two months in hospital but we organised a big party for her when she came home."
Altogether, she underwent a total of 20 courses of radiotherapy, 13 courses of chemotherapy and several operations at Pendlebury and Christie's Hospitals. At one point doctors thought they had cured her condition but the cancer returned two months later.
In December last year, Debbie and Stephen decided to seek a second opinion from doctors in Newcastle. Stephen said: "We saw another consultant and they came up with a different take on it. They said the tumour hadn't been diagnosed properly and was incurable. But at the end of the day, the staff at Christie's and Pendlebury were brilliant and the treatment prolonged her life and gave us more time together.''
Emma was a pupil of Mount Carmel High School, having previously attended St Peter's Primary School in Accrington.
Debbie said: "She had a heck of a lot of time off school as she had long spells in hospital. But when she was fit and well she adored going to school. She was in the choir and loved doing art. The staff at both schools and the headteacher at Mount Carmel, Miss Katrina Ryan, have been absolutely wonderful."
Before she died, Emma asked her stepdad to buy her mum a bunch of flowers for Valentine's Day. Stephen said: "It was as if she knew she was going to die but she didn't want to tell Debbie. She told me to write the message: 'To the best mum in the world, my soul mate, always and forever, Emms'."
The church was packed for the funeral service, conducted by Father David Lyon, when Emma's favourite songs, Tomorrow Never Comes, What My Heart Wants to Say and Angels, were played.
Her classmates from Mount Carmel, including best friend Janine, and Miss Ryan attended the poignant service which was followed by burial at Accrington Cemetery.
Emma also leaves her grandparents Derek and Madeline, her uncles and aunties Carl, Michael and Joanne and their families.