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Celebrities and campaigners demand change at Westminster event

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Sue Farrington Smith, John Bercow MP and Debbie McGee

Dedicated brain tumour campaigners, including Debbie McGee, were among the guests of Speaker John Bercow MP at an exclusive House of Commons event this week, during Brain Tumour Awareness Month.

John Bercow, long-standing patron of the charity Brain Tumour Research opened the State Rooms of Speaker’s House to patients, families, scientists, clinicians and supporters as they continue to campaign for change. They urged MPs to reverse the decades of underfunding for research and significantly improve treatments for the 60,000 (according to brainstrust) people living with a brain tumour in the UK.

Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

Iconic magician Paul Daniels died from a brain tumour one year ago today [17th March], just weeks after his diagnosis. Debbie McGee, who met Paul in 1979, spoke movingly about her husband to the crowd. She said: “Paul loved life too much to just give up, we continued to share a joke until just two days before he died. After nearly 30 years of marriage, all I could do was be with him, to hold his hand and tell him that I loved him.”

Essex teenager Bethany Lloyd [pictured above with Mum Angela, 38, and sister Chloe, 10] bravely fought tears as she talked about coming to terms with the long illness and loss of her father, Steve. Bethany, 14, related how: “Mum and Dad sat us down on the sofa to explain about Dad’s illness. They told us that his treatment wasn’t working and that he was going to get worse. They didn’t know how quickly it would happen or how but they promised to tell us what they knew. I was five and Chloe was three when he was diagnosed.”

Supporters of the charity were encouraged by the inspiring story of brain tumour patient Ben Anderson [pictured above], who was celebrating his 18th birthday on the night. Ben closed the speeches, speaking with courage and humour. “I was 14 when I was diagnosed with a brain tumour,” he said, “Mum was expecting a new baby and the story goes that when we were told, I turned to her to ask if I was going to die or would I be around to meet my new brother or sister.” Scout Ben did meet his little sister and is now studying to become a teaching assistant, despite the knowledge that his tumour is growing again.

The charity is celebrating a year of high-profile campaigning on this issue following the unprecedented success of its petition in 2016. Following that, Brain Tumour Research is now part of the Government’s Task and Finish Working Group convened to tackle the historic underfunding for research.

Sue Farrington Smith MBE, chief executive of Brain Tumour Research, praised the dedication of the charity’s supporters, saying: “Many families continue to be torn apart watching their loved ones die of a brain tumour. It doesn’t have to be this way. We have all seen how research investment into other forms of cancer has resulted in improved patient outcomes over recent decades. It is crucial that we significantly increase the investment in brain tumour research and offer hope for patients and their families.”

To get involved, or donate, please visit: www.braintumourresearch.org