GBM Awareness Week: Daughter speaks out about father’s brain tumour to raise awareness
Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet historically, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to the disease, Brain Tumour Research said.
A LOVING daughter has spoken out about her father’s terminal illness in a bid to raise awareness of the need for greater investment in research.
Simran Poonia was left stunned after her father Baljit Mehat was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year.
Poonia, a 34-year-old social worker from Potton, Bedfordshire, said: “It came completely out of the blue and we were left shocked, wondering why us? What had caused it?”
The 59-year-old Mehat, a father-of-four from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, was on his way to a football match when he became shaky and confused in October 2021. He was driven to hospital where scans detected a mass on his brain.
Within weeks, he was undergoing a brain surgery but Covid-19 restrictions in place meant that he was without his family for support.
Poonia, a mum-of-two, said: “Knowing that he had woken up from surgery alone, without the comfort of having someone familiar with him, was the worst thing. The fact that you could go to a football match and sit among thousands of people but mum wasn’t even allowed to sit by his hospital bed made me so angry.”
A biopsy of Mehat’s tumour revealed the devastating news that he had a ‘Grade 4’ glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a fast-growing tumour that is very challenging to treat.
In January, Mehat started taking a drug called AZD1390 in combination with radiotherapy as part of a clinical trial. His tumour is currently stable and his doctors have told him to enjoy things he wants to do whilst he is still fit and healthy. His son, Kirpal, has even brought his wedding forward by six months.
“I wanted us to try and spend Christmas together and we did but it was bittersweet because my youngest sister ended up having a baby on 29th December, so couldn’t be with us,” Poonia said.
“Dad was also weaker and too tired to do the things he usually does, such as dress up as Santa on Christmas Eve, which we all wished he had been able to do, and he’d lost a lot of weight,” she added.
“I remember looking at him as he was carving the turkey and thinking how different he appeared. He never said it could be his last Christmas but I know we were all thinking it.
“My two sisters and I are married but my brother was due to marry his fiancée in April 2023 so we started thinking about whether to bring their wedding forward,” she added.
“It was a really difficult conversation to have but we said it was more about ensuring dad would enjoy the day rather than to do with concerns we had about him deteriorating or not be around at all if we waited.
“It’s now due to take place in October, which isn’t the simplest of things because it’s a Sikh wedding involving around 500 guests. We’ve had to change the venue but are all pitching in to help make it as special as can be.
“It’s painful to think about dad not being with us but I feel like I’m prepared for what will happen. I’m not accepting it, but I am preparing for it.”
Poonia is working with Brain Tumour Research, the only national charity in the UK which works to find a cure for brain tumour, to share her father’s story during GBM Awareness Week, which kicked off on Monday (18).
According to Brain Tumour Research, GBM is the most commonly diagnosed high-grade brain tumour found in adults. It is fast-growing and the average survival time is just 12 to 18 months. Treatment options are extremely limited and there is no cure.
Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said, “What Baljit and his family are going through is devastating but, sadly, it is not unique. Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet historically, just one per cent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to the disease. This needs to change but 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 the 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 and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.