Courageous young mum living with a brain tumour is honoured at research centre
Three members of a Colchester family have raised thousands to help fund scientific research to find a cure for brain tumours.
The Relf family, who all live in Mile End, chose to fundraise for the Brain Tumour Research charity when they learned that their daughter/sister had been diagnosed with an aggressive and incurable brain tumour.
Gemma Edgar, 32, a wife and mother, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in October 2014 when she was a paediatric nurse at Colchester General Hospital, after just a few days of migraine-type symptoms. Her sons, Noah and Dylan, were eight weeks and two years old at the time. Gemma underwent surgery, as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Since Gemma’s shocking diagnosis, the family were rocked again when they discovered a couple of years ago that Noah had a retinoblastoma – a very rare type of cancer that affects the back of the eye. He has been successfully treated, although undergoes scans every three or four months to check that there has been no regrowth.
In November last year the family faced further agony when it was discovered that Gemma’s brain tumour had reoccurred. She underwent more surgery and is currently receiving chemotherapy.
Dad Andy, 57, and brother Lee, 38, raised more than £10,500 in 2016 when they took on the Celtic Crossing – the toughest open ocean kayak race in the northern hemisphere –and, along with further fundraising events including a hat party last September, the Relfs have raised almost £12,000.
On Wednesday 6th June, Gemma’s parents Andy and Barbara, along with Lee, visited the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University London to learn more about the research and to put up four tiles on the Wall of Hope.
The centre, one of four receiving funding from the charity, is focused on research to improve treatments for patients with brain tumours and, ultimately, finding a cure. Each tile laid on the wall represents the £2,740 it costs to fund a day of research.
Led by Prof. Silvia Marino, in collaboration with University College London, the team at the centre are studying glioblastoma tumours – one of the most aggressive and deadly types of brain cancer and the tumour that Gemma has been diagnosed with.
Andy said: “We are incredibly proud of Gemma – she is so positive and courageous. It is very difficult knowing her future is so uncertain, but the way she lives her life is so amazingly inspirational it keeps us all going. She is always smiling and laughing and keeping busy, even running the London Marathon this year whilst on chemotherapy! Today has been a fantastic opportunity to see how all the fundraising we have secured with enormous help from friends and contacts is making a difference for researchers.”
Barbara commented: “It’s an honour to visit one of the Brain Tumour Research Centres of Excellence and see where all the research takes place. We can’t wait to let our supporters and sponsors know about all the exciting developments going on.”
Lee added: “The tiles we placed symbolise not only the money we’ve raised for research into brain tumours, but also they honour Gemma. She is the best sister anyone could ask for and the best auntie too – Gemma couldn’t wait to get out of hospital after her latest brain surgery because she wanted to meet her niece and my first child, Millie, who had just been born!”
Brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age, yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.
Michael Thelwall, Head of Community Fundraising for Brain Tumour Research, said: “Andy, Barbara and Lee have raised an incredible amount for Brain Tumour Research and we’re really pleased they have been to see the research taking place at Queen Mary University London, and also place tiles on the Wall of Hope.
“Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer and less than 20% of patients survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50% across all cancers. Stories like Gemma’s remind us all that we cannot allow this desperate situation to continue.”
If you have been inspired by Gemma’s story you can make a donation to Brain Tumour Research via www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lee-relf3
For further information, please contact:
Liz Fussey at Brain Tumour Research on 07811 068357 or Liz@braintumourresearch.org
Notes to Editors
Brain Tumour Research is the only national charity in the UK focused on funding sustainable research to find a cure for brain tumours. We have established a game-changing network of world-class Research Centres of Excellence in the UK. Embracing passionate member charities nationwide, over £6 million was raised towards research and support during 2017.
We are campaigning to see the national spend on research into brain tumours increased to £30 - £35 million a year, in line with breast cancer and leukaemia. The unprecedented success of our 2015 petition led to the 2016 Westminster Hall debate and Brain Tumour Research taking a leading role in the Government’s Task and Finish Working Group convened to tackle the historic underfunding for research with the report being published in 2018.
Key statistics on brain tumours:
- Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer
- They kill more children than leukaemia
- They kill more men under 45 than prostate cancer
- They kill more women under 35 than breast cancer
- Just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease
- In the UK 16,000 people each year are diagnosed with a brain tumour
- Less than 20% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50% across all cancers
- Brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age
- Incidences of, and deaths from, brain tumours are increasing.
Please quote Brain Tumour Research as the source when using this information. Additional facts and statistics are available from our website including our latest Report on National Research Funding. We can also provide case-studies and research expertise for media.