Student given 12 months to live after devastating diagnosis from routine eye test

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Laura Nuttall’s life was turned upside down back in 2018, after receiving the diagnosis that she had Glioblastoma Multiforme. Doctors found eight tumours, and Laura was told she only had around 12 months to live. 

As soon as she was told about her condition, the student pulled the brakes on life as she knew it – leaving her university course in London to concentrate on treatment and ticking items off her bucket list.

However, when her family discovered an innovative new treatment was available in Germany, Laura was given the chance to begin immunotherapy. She responded so well to the treatment that she began a new course at the University of Manchester, and now the 22-year-old has hit a milestone she previously would not have thought possible by graduating.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Laura said: “In my first year, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it to graduation – never mind get a 2:1!”

Laura, from Barrowford in Lancashire, endured a craniotomy to remove the largest tumour and then started a gruelling programme of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

After her family discovered the new treatment in Germany, Laura received a flurry of donations from friends, family and an online fundraiser to help cover the costs. She had to travel to Cologne every six weeks for her new treatment – but responded so well she was able to restart her studies.

Despite travelling for the gruelling treatment – which was made even more difficult by restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic – Laura excelled in her studies. She kept busy as an ambassador for The Brain Tumour Charity and helping out in her community, on top of more surgery in March and December.

Laura completed her degree in politics, philosophy and economics, and celebrated her graduation with mum Nicola, sister Grace and dad Mark.

“Laura was told that she had a life expectancy of around a year and wouldn’t be going back to university at all, so to see her graduate is just incredible,” said Nicola. “I know how hard she’s had to work to achieve her degree alongside her chemotherapy, surgery and treatment, and this day is a real celebration of her tenacity. We really couldn’t be more proud of her.”

Laura plans to carry on raising money for brain charities, and to raise awareness of brain conditions. She recently joined the board of Our Brain Bank, a charity working to turn Glioblastoma from terminal to treatable.

“I have met very few people with such a determination to live their life to the full,” Professor Jackie Carter, who bonded with Laura as she also has a child with an incurable brain tumour. Unlike most of my students who are wondering what to do with their futures, Laura quite literally doesn’t know what hers holds – but she’s getting on with it, and doing it all with a spirit that shines through her every pore when you meet her.”

Laura and her mum were keen to tell their story, as they want to draw attention to the research being undertaken at The University of Manchester.

The Geoffrey Jefferson Brain Research Centre opened at the university last year, which brings together some of the world’s leading brain tumour, stroke and dementia scientists – alongside experts in brain inflammation, imaging and rehabilitation – to carry out ground-breaking research and develop new treatments to transform the lives of people with neurological diseases.

These conditions have a devastating impact in the UK – brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, dementia is the leading cause of death, and 100,000 people have strokes every year.

“I don’t think I would have been able to achieve my degree without the help and support provided by The University of Manchester, especially the student welfare officers” added Laura.

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