A Wigan mother hopes to make her teenage daughter’s wishes come true after she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
Nicola Nuttall was devastated when her “ambitious” and “smart” eldest daughter Laura fell ill at the end of October.
She had achieved straight As in her A-levels, had just started university and ran her first marathon only months earlier.
But life has completely changed for the 19-year-old since she was given the shattering news that she has stage four brain cancer.
Nicola, who grew up in Appley Bridge and Standish, said: “She set off for her first term of university in London and was complaining about headaches.
That’s the kind of thing that happens a lot when people go to university, because they are mixing with lots of people.
“She went for an eye test for the Royal Navy university corps and they saw a problem behind her eye, so we thought it might be more serious.
“The next day she couldn’t stop vomiting, as well as having a headache.
“I got on a train from Preston to London late at night and went straight to A&E with her. She had a scan at 3am and she had two brain tumours.”
The following morning, a more detailed scan revealed more tumours.
Nicola said: “We cleared the room at university we had just unpacked, which was heartbreaking, and brought her back. She has been on a treatment rollercoaster since then.”
After an operation to remove the largest and most life-threatening growth at Salford Royal Hospital, Laura and her family were told she had glioblastoma multiforme – the most aggressive brain cancer in adults.
Nicola, who attended Shevington High School and Winstanley College, said: “It means she is going to be very poorly and her life is going to be very short. Initially they said three months without treatment and 12, maybe 18 months with treatment.”
The diagnosis was a huge shock for the whole family, which includes Laura’s dad Mark and sister Grace, 17.
“We were devastated, and we still are,” Nicola, 48, said.
Laura underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy at The Christie Hospital in Manchester throughout December in an attempt to keep the cancer at bay.
Nicola says Laura is “staying positive”, despite the effects of the treatment.
But it is a tough time for the family, who live in Barrowford, Lancashire.
Nicola said: “We have been going to The Christie every day for six weeks and it’s a long way from here, so it’s quite arduous.
“Our lives are completely different to how they were. Everyone gets cancer when one person in the family gets cancer.”
Laura is due to embark on a further six-month course of intensive chemotherapy next month.
The family is also exploring whether Laura may be able to have experimental treatments such as DCVax, a type of personalised therapy made in the USA using some of an individual patient’s own immune cells.
But because the treatment is so new, it has not yet been approved for use on the NHS and the family would have to pay for it.
They have launched a £150,000 fund-raising appeal to cover the initial treatment, with a further £26,000 needed each year.
More than £70,000 has been raised in less than two weeks, which Nicola described as “astonishing”.
While some large amounts have been given, there are also many smaller donations of £5 or £10 given by individuals.
She said: “I have been absolutely humbled by the response we have had. It has been amazing.
“There are lots from young people from the girls’ schools – it seems like every child in the school has donated. It’s really touched us. The range of donations, there have been huge donations and people giving their pocket money. It has been unbelievable.”
As well as raising money, Laura has written a “bucket list” of things she would like to do.
Her mother described it as “quite a strange list”, which includes afternoon tea at The Ritz, crossing the equator, meeting Sir David Attenborough, asking a question on Question Time and driving a heavy goods vehicle.
Nicola said: “We have had a lot of support on that, lots of people offering her nice things to do.
“She has ticked off the first thing by going to the Churchill Museum.
“It’s quite a strange list and maybe not everyone would put these things on the list. She has always been interested in things other people aren’t.”
Also on the list is a tour of the Heinz beans factory in Wigan.
Despite people offering to contact management on their behalf, it is something they have not yet managed to arrange.
Nicola said: “I think she saw the Heinz factory on a food programme and was quite transfixed watching the production line and was adamant it was going on the list. She wanted to see the production and automation. She is really interested in it. She is very keen to go on a tour.”
Laura has also applied to resume her university studies in September, but this time closer to home in Manchester.
The family is supporting the Brain Tumour Charity to raise awareness of brain tumours, which kill more children and young adults in the UK than any other cancer.
Keen runner Nicola is training for the London marathon, which she will run in April in aid of the charity. She said: “The Brain Tumour Charity has been really, really helpful and we can help raise awareness with them of the symptoms of brain tumours and the importance of getting things checked out sooner rather than later.”