'Princess Meg' was a force of nature
TRIBUTES have been paid to a 'determined and lively' young woman from Downend, who has died aged 24.
Megan Luscombe was born with the degenerative condition Friedreich's Ataxia and lived with physical disability.
But her mum Janet said Megan "wanted people to see her personality and strength, beyond the wheelchair".
She was affectionately known as Princess Meg both for her personality and love of fashion, style and pampering.
Born in Kingswood, where she attended Southey pre-school and Falconride Primary, now Kings Forest, Megan moved to Downend, where her family still lives, aged 10.
She attended Downend School for five years before moving to the residential National Star College near Cheltenham for further education, studying graphics and design.
Megan stayed in Cheltenham and continued to learn new skills after leaving the college: she had recently undertaken courses in ceramics and cookery.
She died in her sleep in late March and, while her condition was life-limiting, her death was unexpected.
Her family – parents Janet and Sean, and sisters Abigail and Becky – are now fundraising for National Star and inviting everyone who knew Megan to make a donation in her memory.
Janet said: "Nothing phased Megan – there was always a way she could achieve anything.
"She wanted to do everything that a normal, able bodied person would – it might have been harder for her to do it but she was a very determined young lady, and always did what she wanted to do.
"She wanted her independence and achieved it."
Megan loved to travel and visited many countries, including visiting Disneyland Paris and going skiing.
After a family visit to Mexico, in 2009, Megan caught swine flu. Amid fears at the time that the virus would become a pandemic, Downend School was closed as a precaution, but Janet said Megan saw the funny side of being the cause of her classmates getting some time off.
Megan followed her sister Abigail, who also has Friedreich's Ataxia, to National Star.
While there, she made headlines when she fought back against a mugger who tried to snatch money she had withdrawn from a cash machine in Cheltenham.
Megan grabbed back half of the money and fought back against the robber, who was then caught by passers-by.
She said at the time: "I may not be strong, but I have a strong grip.
"People in wheelchairs are seen as easy targets but the thief underestimated me. I can be pretty determined when I want to."
During her four years at the college Megan not only achieved an employability skills qualification but was elected to the student union to represent her peers, and was fully involved with college social life.
She featured on a BBC3 TV documentary, The Unbreakables, which followed a group of National Star students, and experienced downhill skiing in an adapted sit-ski during trips to Andorra and France.
Staff have been left devastated by her death and described her as a "force of nature".
Speaking on behalf of National Star, physiotherapy manager Verity Fisher said: "Megan is remembered for her sense of adventure, infectious laugh and sheer determination, which enabled her to do so much in her short life.
"Woe betide anyone who was lulled into a false sense of security by Megan’s physical appearance. "She may have been small in stature but her huge personality and steely determination more than compensated.
"A woman who loved company and to party, Megan was at the centre of any activity she could get involved with.
"Clothes and fashion were Megan’s passion. She had her own classic style and everything had to be just right, from hair bobbles to shoes."
After leaving college Megan decided to stay in Cheltenham and was living independently in her own bungalow and directing her own care when she died.
Megan's family have received many touching tributes from people who knew her, including staff at National Star.
Anyone who remembers Megan is invited to donate to the family's online fundraising page at justgiving.com/fundraising/janet-luscombe1.