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Mother reveals the life lessons she has learnt from her daughter’s cancer diagnosis


A mother has revealed the life lessons she has learnt from her ‘inspirational’ daughter who was given a terminal brain cancer diagnosis. 

Nicola Nuttall, 50, from Lancashire has shared how her daughter Laura, 21, still vows to live life to the full after she was told she had just a year to live in November 2018 – and has defied doctors predictions.  

Laura thought she had fresher’s flu when she started university, but a routine eye test led to her heartbreaking diagnosis. 

Each day, Nicola has to cope with the ‘unimaginable pain’ of knowing that daughter will have her life cut short – yet, despite her devastating prognosis, she says that Laura teaches her how to live.  

Nicola Nuttall (left) has revealed the life lessons she has learnt from her ‘inspirational’ daughter Laura (right when she was younger) who was given a terminal brain cancer diagnosis

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Laura thought she had fresher’s flu when she started university, but a routine eye test led to her heartbreaking diagnosis. She is pictured celebrating her 21st birthday last December 

The six life lessons Nicola has learnt from her daughter Laura

Lesson one: Focus on the positive

Laura’s taught me always to count my blessings and focus on the positive. Like she does, I try to appreciate what I do have rather than what I don’t have. However tough things get, happiness is a choice.

Lesson two: Be kind

What I admire most about Laura is how she puts other people first. Living with brain cancer has made her hugely compassionate and she says there is always someone else worse off than her.

She’s taught me to be kind – helping other people is a win-win situation as it gives us a boost, too,

Laura helps with food banks and came up with the idea of holding a day for deprived families at our soft play centre, Giddy Kippers, on Boxing Day, 2019, when we made Christmas dinner for over 200 people.

Lesson three: Find your tribe

Find people who share your experiences. Laura found that by becoming one of The Brain Tumour Charity’s Young Ambassadors

Spending time with other people her age who really understand what she’s dealing with makes all the difference.

She inspired me to find my own tribe in social media. Sometimes it’s easier to share experiences with people who don’t know you or your family but get what you’re going through.

Lesson four: Be brave

Laura faces everything she’s going through with such bravery. She encourages us all to be that bit braver, do the scary things because they’re the memories you’ll treasure in years to come.

She did a sky dive with Gracie earlier this year to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity.

Lesson five: Make memories

As soon as Laura was diagnosed, she made her bucket list.

She’s taught me to fill our time together with good things and bank happy memories. Never underestimate the power of having something lovely to look forward to

Lesson six: Follow your dreams

Laura is a great believer in following your dreams.

She’s taught us to work out where you want to be and make a plan to get there. She’s so supportive of us all, especially her little sister, and encouraged her to realise her dream of studying film-making at university.

  • The Brain Tumour Charity is carrying out a series of surveys to gauge how brain tumour patients’ experiences vary across the UK. Read more about the charity’s five-year strategy here

She said: ‘Living with the knowledge your daughter has a terminal disease is an unimaginable pain.

‘It’s surreal as it’s hard to believe when Laura’s doing OK and looks so well like she does now, but when she’s ill, it’s hard to believe she’ll be well again.

‘She inspires me every day and seeing how she faces her uncertain future with such courage and determination has taught me how to live.’

Nicola also explained how she ‘feels blessed’ she, husband Mark, 58, and daughter Gracie, 18, celebrated Laura’s 21st birthday with her on December 23.   

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Laura Nuttall is pictured before the brain tumour diagnosis that turned the family’s life upside down. Right: Laura pictured after surgery 

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Nicola also explained how she ‘feels blessed’ she, husband Mark, 58, and daughter Gracie, 18, celebrated Laura’s 21st birthday with her on December 23. The family are pictured together

‘Laura reaching that milestone looked impossible when she was given 12-18 months to live,’ she said.

‘Right from being diagnosed, Laura has been so stoic and rarely feels sorry for herself.

‘When doctors told her she may only have a year to live, she replied ‘plot twist!’ which is typical of her dry sense of humour.’   

Now Nicola and Laura, who is a Young Ambassador with The Brain Tumour Charity are sharing their story to help the charity raise vital funds and awareness to give hope to other families.       

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Everton fan Laura met the team as part of her bucket list. Pictured with Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford

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Laura won The Brain Tumour Charity’s Influencer of the Year Award 2020 and is pictured here with her award 

The family’s nightmare started in October 2018.

Laura was just weeks into an International Relations degree at King’s College University in London when she started suffering headaches and nausea.

She put the symptoms down to ‘fresher’s flu.’

But when she applied to join the Royal Navy reserves, she had to have an eye test, which revealed that her optic nerve was swollen.

She was referred to Moorfields Eye Hospital in London for further tests, but the following day she was violently sick and called Nicola for help.

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Laura is living life to the full ticking off her bucket list including meeting celebrities. Pictured with Gillian Anderson 

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Laura is now in her second year at Manchester University studying politics, philosophy and economics. Pictured with Fiona Bruce 

Nicola and Gracie raced to London from Lancashire and drove a semi-conscious Laura straight to A&E that night.

A CT scan revealed she had two brain tumours and next morning a more detailed MRI scan showed several more tumours.

‘Laura had a ticking time bomb in her head,’ said Nicola.

‘If we hadn’t got her to hospital when we did, I don’t think she would have made it.’    

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Laura’s diagnosis has had a huge impact on the whole family. They are pictured together

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Laura underwent radiotherapy after surgery, along with chemotherapy 

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Laura encourages sister Gracie to pursue her dreams. The sisters are pictured together

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‘It’s a tough journey for us all and takes its toll, but it’s especially hard for Gracie,’ said Nicola. Gracie and Laura are pictured together 

After surgery to remove the largest tumour on November 7 2018, biopsy results showed Laura had a glioblastoma – the most common aggressive brain tumour in adults.  

‘We were in pieces,’ said Nicola. ‘Doctors told us that Laura had 12-18 months to live with treatment and three months without.

‘As a parent, when you hear those sort of numbers about your child, nothing prepares you for the devastation.

‘Just like that, Laura’s bright future was reduced to a life expectancy of 12-18 months.’

After surgery, the student had chemotherapy and radiotherapy throughout the December.

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After her diagnosis, Laura wrote a bucket list and got to have lots of amazing experiences 

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Now the family cherish every second together. Laura is pictured with her proud father Mark

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Laura and her sister Gracie have always been close and are pictured together here 

Since then, she has undergone more gruelling chemotherapy and travels regularly to Cologne for immunotherapy, paid for by a fund the family set up. 

But determined Laura, who now has scans every three months, defied doctors’ predictions she wouldn’t be able to go back to university.

She is now in her second year at Manchester University studying politics, philosophy and economics.

And she is living life to the full ticking off her bucket list including meeting Michelle Obama, staying at The Plaza Hotel in New York and watching Saturday Night Live being filmed, fishing with Bob Mortimore and Paul Whitehouse and spending the day with Greater Manchester Police.

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Poignantly, Nicola feels it’s her job to keep Laura ‘alive for as long as possible’ in the hope of a cure being found in time for her. Pictured together when she was younger 

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The family are pictured together on a holiday to the seaside 

Laura’s diagnosis has had a huge impact on the whole family.

‘It’s a tough journey for us all and takes its toll, but it’s especially hard for Gracie,’ said Nicola.

‘She loves her big sister and she wants to grow old with her. She wants her to be there when she has children and gets married.

‘It’s been hard for her to contemplate that she might be doing that on her own.’

But their ordeal has made the family even closer.

‘It wasn’t easy when Laura was first diagnosed as everyone deals with huge life-changing events differently – and we had to handle it in our own ways,’ said Nicola.

‘But we’ve been through so much that it’s brought us together as a family even more.

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Laura and Nicola spearheaded The Brain Tumour Charity’s Winter Appeal and are backing the charity’s virtual Big Bake to raise vital funds towards finding that cure one day to help other families like them. The family are pictured together

‘And I’m closer to Laura than ever.’

Poignantly, Nicola feels it’s her job to keep Laura ‘alive for as long as possible’ in the hope of a cure being found in time for her.

And she says Laura – who won The Brain Tumour Charity’s Influencer of the Year Award 2020 – ‘teaches me something every day.’ 

Laura and Nicola spearheaded The Brain Tumour Charity’s Winter Appeal and are backing the charity’s virtual Big Bake to raise vital funds towards finding that cure one day to help other families like them.

‘In the last few months, I have known of three families devastated by the death of a young person from a brain tumour,’ said Nicola

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Gracie has supported her sister through her illness and are pictured together 

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And Laura says her mum has also taught her valuable lessons. ‘I have learned so much from my mum, too, since my diagnosis,’ she said. Laura is pictured with Gracie 

‘It’s absolutely heart breaking. Treatment for brain tumours has barely changed in decades. It’s brutal and incredibly hard to watch someone you love go through it.

‘We need to fund research to move treatment forward for the sake of families like ours, faced with the terminal diagnosis of someone they love.

‘Brain tumours kill more children and adults under 40 than any other cancer and this needs to change.

‘Research can only happen with funding which is why it is so close to our hearts to help The Brain Tumour Charity raise funds and awareness.

‘I just want Laura to have what everyone wants; a long and happy life. And I don’t want other families in the future to have to go through what we have.

‘We don’t know how long Laura will be well enough for treatment, or even alive. A cure must be found – if not for Laura, then for those who come after her.’

Now the family cherish every second together.

‘We feel blessed Laura is still with us and doing so well,’ said Nicola. ‘I just want her happy, well and with us for as much time as possible.

‘I try not to look too far into the future as we don’t know how much more time we have together. Despite everything, we strive to enjoy every moment – and Laura is our constant inspiration.’

And Laura says her mum has also taught her valuable lessons.

‘I have learned so much from my mum, too, since my diagnosis,’ she said.

‘She is so organised and has helped me tick off so many amazing experiences from my bucket list.

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Laura said: ‘Our family is closer than ever now and that’s all that matters – being together’. She is pictured with her grandfather

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‘We feel blessed Laura is still with us and doing so well,’ said Nicola. ‘I just want her happy, well and with us for as much time as possible’. They are pictured together

‘Mum keeps the family’s spirits up – not just me, Dad and Gracie but our grandparents, too – she’s incredible.

‘Our family is closer than ever now and that’s all that matters – being together.

‘In my role as Young Ambassador for The Brain Tumour Charity, I say yes to everything I can to help the charity raise money and awareness.

‘They’ve given my family so much support and I want to help other families facing the same challenges as mine and give us all hope.’

Sarah Lindsell, The Brain Tumour Charity’s chief executive, said: ‘We are so very grateful to the Nuttall family for sharing Laura’s story to help raise awareness about brain tumours – which kills more children and under-40s in the UK than any other cancer.

‘Laura is the most unassuming person and an inspiration to us all. Along with our other Young Ambassadors, she does a brilliant job helping us to raise awareness.

‘We’re honoured to have Nicola and Laura’s support to give families like them hope.

‘Like so many other charities, we are suffering the impact of COVID-19, and will see over a 40% drop in our income this year, which is why our fundraising is more vital than ever.

‘Thanks to our inspiring community, we have made real progress to defeat brain tumours over the past five years. Now our community needs hope more than ever and, while some of our financial commitments need to be smaller this year to help us recover, one commitment only grows: to be here for our community.’

  • Visit Laura’s Go Fund me page here.  
  • The Brain Tumour Charity’s virtual Big Bake is raising money for vital research. 
  • Get support: The Brain Tumour Charity’s free information and support line: 0808 800 0004 or email [email protected] or click here.     



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