Young brain tumour survivor inspired to nurse others after ‘amazing’ treatment

Grace Daly
Grace Daly
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A young woman who was diagnosed with a brain tumour is sharing her story to highlight the “chronic” underfunding of the disease.

Grace Daly, of Shenley Lodge, was a fit and healthy 15-year-old when she was diagnosed with a high grade brain tumour. She underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and now, aged 23, has been clear of brain cancer for seven years.

Grace Daly

Grace Daly

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. Grace has chosen to speak out during March, Brain Tumour Awareness Month, and is urging people to take part in the UK-wide fundraising event, Wear A Hat Day on Friday, March 31.

Now in its eighth year, Wear A Hat Day is supported by Debbie McGee, who lost husband Paul Daniels to a brain tumour a year ago, celebrated milliner Stephen Jones OBE who cared for a terminally ill friend, actress and broadcaster Sheila Hancock CBE whose grandson was successfully treated, and singer, songwriter and record producer John Newman who is awaiting treatment for his second brain tumour.

Grace said: “Until March 2009, life was pretty normal. I was active, danced twice a week and was part of an athletics team. I was 15, in the first year of my GCSE studies at Denbigh School, with lots of friends.

“It was at this time that I started to suffer with really bad headaches. They weren’t like normal headaches, my head pulsated with pain, and it seemed to be coming from the base of my skull. Until this point, I never really got ill, so when I started feeling dizzy, I realised there must be something wrong.”

Grace was eventually diagnosed with a grade 4 medulloblastoma and underwent surgery to remove 70% of the tumour. She found her chemotherapy treatment particularly tough.

She said: “It’s a totally devastating thing to lose your hair when you’re 15 when the way you look is so important. And then to lose my eyelashes and eyebrows too, so awful. That was honestly the worst part of my treatment, losing my hair. I could cope with being sick but when it affects your whole appearance, that has the most impact.

“Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under the age of 40, and I’m lucky that I didn’t become one of those statistics. You don’t expect to be diagnosed with such a devastating disease when you’re only 15. When you realise that only 20% survive more than five years post-diagnosis, I really feel blessed.

“During my time in hospital, I was treated by the most amazing nurses and doctors. It was that experience that inspired me to go into nursing and be like the ones who cared for me.

“I also want to help others by raising money for research. Only 1% of the national spend on cancer research is allocated to brain tumours, and it’s not enough. I am planning a charity ball for March 2017 to raise money for Brain Tumour Research, and I hope this will become an annual event. Research is the only way to find a cure.”