A young Nelson woman, whose mother lost her life to a brain tumour, joined campaigners at the European Parliament to call for more action to defeat the cruel disease.
Graphic designer Laura Maree (23) was among a group of Young Ambassadors for The Brain Tumour Charity who travelled to Brussels to press for increased investment in research and better support services for those with brain tumours.
Her mum, Joan, died at the age of 54 in 2009 after the late diagnosis of a highly aggressive, terminal glioblastoma.
Laura and her fellow Young Ambassadors – all of whom have either been treated for a brain tumour or have lost a close relative to the disease – met Emma McClarkin, MEP for the East Midlands, to discuss their experiences.
They also visited the office of the European Cancer Patient Coalition.
Laura said: “It was an honour to go to Brussels as a Young Ambassador for The Brain Tumour Charity.
“The charity is a truly wonderful, awe inspiring organisation that never rests in its efforts to help those affected by this dreadful illness and to ultimately find a cure.”
Sadly, Laura knows first-hand about the devastating impact of brain tumours.
“Mum was misdiagnosed several times. By the time the tumour was found, it was too late,” she added.
“We were left heartbroken when she was cruelly taken from us just eight months later.”
In April 2008, Joan suffered a seizure and was taken to the Royal Blackburn Hospital. After another seizure in the ambulance and banging her head, she had a scan.
Then Joan started suffering severe headaches which sometimes made her collapse, caused sickness and loss of concentration.
“Mum went to see a GP several times with my dad Sean who pleaded for help. She was sent away and told to take over-the-counter painkillers and was prescribed anti-depressants,” said Laura.
“One phrase that will always stick in my mind is the GP telling mum and dad not to worry because ‘if there was anything seriously wrong, I’d know about it and you’d know about it’.”
But Joan’s follow-up scan six weeks later revealed a glioblastoma. She had surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, followed by six weeks of daily radiotherapy sessions and chemotherapy. She died eight months after diagnosis, leaving Laura, her dad, sister Kami (39) and brother Kevin (37) heartbroken.
“At the time, we thought – and hoped - that what we had been through was just a terribly unfortunate case. However, families like ours are torn apart every day by late diagnoses.
“That’s why being able to raise awareness of this terrible disease at The European Parliament was so important to me.
“Mum loved people and I know she would have wanted us to use her ordeal to help others. I would hate to see any family go through our heartache of losing someone to a brain tumour.”
As well as representing the charity on the trip, Laura spearheads The Brain Tumour Charity’s #WearItOut Bandanas for Brain Tumours Campaign during Brain Tumour Awareness Month which runs throughout March.
Laura added: “The charity has a very special place in my heart. Sadly my dad died in 2013 from lymphoma at the age of 62. He was heartbroken when mum died and worked hard to raise awareness about brain tumours.
“I’m a Young Ambassador in his memory as well as mum’s. Most of all, I know mum would have wanted me to use her experience to help other people.”