Leah Martin was diagnosed with an aggressive medulloblastoma brain tumour ten years ago and underwent several operations and a gruelling regime of high-dose chemotherapy and radiotherapy which has left her with long-term side effects. These include problems with her speech and mobility, vision and hearing loss, as well as severe learning difficulties and growth issues due to hormonal deficiencies.
Leah’s mum Jo, who set up the Leah’s Fairy Fund Fundraising Group which has raised more than £25,000 and supports the research being funded at Brain Tumour Research’s Centre of Excellence at the University of Plymouth, said: “When Leah had an MRI scan which revealed a mass in her brain after her mobility had deteriorated alarmingly and she was barely speaking, I was terrified she might have cancer and that she wasn’t going to live.
“Although it turned out that Leah did have brain cancer, happily she is very much alive today and her tumour remains stable. But the sad reality is she can’t run or ride a bike, she can’t read or even write her own name and her learning difficulties mean that she doesn’t understand when it’s safe to cross the road, unless she’s at a pedestrian crossing and sees the little green man light up.
“The standard treatment for brain tumours remains so barbaric that it can cause life-changing side effects, particularly for children with developing brains.”
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 since records began in 2002.
Over the years, Leah’s Fairy Fund has raised funds through a whole raft of activities including taking part in Wear A Hat Day at the end of March and organising Leah’s Superhero Fun Run.
Now Leah’s family, including older sister Jasmine, 16, along with supporters of Leah’s Fairy Fund, will be taking part in Brain Tumour Research’s Walk of Hope campaign this Saturday 30 September.
Their five-and-a-half-mile route will start and finish from Paignton Pier, meeting at 10.15am on Saturday 30 September and setting off at 10.30am. The half-way point will be at Torquay Pavilion for a refreshment break before heading back to the pier.
Meanwhile, the charity has 11 official Walks of Hope taking place also on Saturday 30 September across the UK to help find a cure, including the Torpoint Walk of Hope – a 7km circular route incorporating the South West Coast Path, around the picturesque Mount Edgcumbe Country Park in Cornwall. To find out more go to www.walk-of-hope.org
Since this ever-popular national fundraising event was first introduced, it has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to help find a cure for brain tumours. This year, there will also be three flagship walks taking place with fun festival atmospheres including entertainment, as well as food and drink stalls.
Melanie Tiley, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research said: “We are really grateful that Leah’s Fairy Fund are joining in with our Walk of Hope campaign.
“Brain tumours are indiscriminate and can affect anyone at any age. With one in three people knowing someone affected by the disease we’re determined to change this. It’s only by working together that we will be able to improve treatment options for patients and ultimately find a cure.”
Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It also campaigns for the Government and larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure. The charity is the driving force behind the call for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia.
To donate to Leah’s Fairy Fund go to www.justgiving.com/page/joanne-martin-1694620425246
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