After Amani Liaquat collapsed at her Luton home on her 22nd birthday in April last year, she was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour.
Given just 12-18 months to live her family sought life-extending treatment in Germany and family, friends and complete strangers helped raise £100,000 in just 24 hours for the treatment for her grade 4 gliblastoma multiforme (GBM).
Now Amani, has been helping to launch Luton's first Walk of Hope, which took place at Wardown Park on New Bedford Road on Saturday in aid of Brain Tumour Research.
GP patient survey 2022: The 10 best rated doctor’s surgeries in Luton
These are Luton’s 10 best GP practices - as rated by you
Volunteer vaccinator from Bedford unveils book about her experience
Luton’s worst GP surgeries for making an appointment, according to their patients
Luton named worst blackspot for air pollution deaths in East of England
Addressing the crowd, the law graduate, who had been undertaking a Masters in Social Work, said: “I’m considered one of the lucky ones to have survived this long, but why should it be down to luck when we know that, with the right investment, this doesn’t have to be the case and a cure can be found?
“I am angry at the number of families, like mine, that are desperately searching for hope. I’m fortunate enough to still have my voice and I have a responsibility to use it for all those who are no longer able to.”
Like many of the participants, Amani wore printed tributes to those whose journeys have inspired her, Mohamed Al-Mousawi, Sabreena Majid and Matthew Pullan – all friends of hers who have died of brain tumours within the last seven months – and Owen Copland, a young man who continues to fight following his grade 4 GBM diagnosis in November last year.
Among those to attend were Antony and Amy Owen who travelled more than 180 miles from their home in Hull with sons Roux and Noah to be there. Roux, who is due to celebrate his second birthday on Friday, has had 11 operations since being diagnosed with a rare brain tumour, the size of two oranges, at just four weeks old.
Amy said: “We’ve come across each other on Instagram through both of us sharing things for Brain Tumour Research and doing Brain Tumour Research awareness months. It hits a nerve when you’ve both had a similar experience and we saw that they were doing this Walk of Hope and said it would be lovely to meet and go show our support.”
Reflecting on Luton's Walk of Hope, which has raised more than £9,000, Amani said: “The support for our first event has been so overwhelming. I can’t thank people enough for turning up from all over the country. I wanted to use the opportunity to highlight the need for change and pushed myself to do my first ever public speech. I hope this is a day everyone can be proud to have been a part of.”
Her mother, Yasmin, said: “It was absolutely amazing to see so many people who came and supported us – it was quite overwhelming really.”
She added: “It’s so great the amount we’ve raised, and potentially that figure could go even higher. It means so much as it will help fund brain tumour research, but it was also important to us that we raised awareness about the lack of funding by bringing that to people’s attention.”
In August, Amani found out her tumour had shrunk ‘quite dramatically’ between her last two MRI scans, providing hope that the medication she is on is having a positive effect. She also learned, however, that she has osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break, and that she may need to have a shunt fitted to drain a large blockage that has developed in her cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
She is due to meet with a neurosurgeon in the coming weeks to discuss her options but for now she remains strong and determined to continue fighting as she campaigns to prevent her friends from becoming ‘just another forgotten, tragic statistic’.
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 this devastating disease.
Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “The strength of Amani and her family never ceases to amaze me. She is an inspirational young woman who, like us, is determined to see more investment in brain tumour research. We’re extremely grateful for her support, and everyone who has donated to her Walk of Hope, and will continue to fight alongside her to enact meaningful change.”
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 calling 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.
To donate to Amani’s Walk of Hope, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/yasmin-stannard3