Suffolk: Grieving father lobbies MPs to help in fight against disease

THE father of a Suffolk teacher who died as the result of a brain tumour joined a lobby of MPs to urge them to help in the fight against the disease.

David Barrett headed to Parliament to join patients, carers, scientists and doctors from across the UK on Wednesday to tell MPs that brain tumours are not getting the priority they deserve, and to urge them to sign an Early Day Motion and an e-petition to get the Government to do more.

Mr Barrett’s younger daughter Gemma, a geography teacher at Hartismere School in Eye, suffered her first seizure in December 2006.

Mr Barrett, of Wacton, near Long Stratton, Norfolk, said: “It was completely without warning. She felt ill in class and went out for a glass of water and on the way she collapsed in the corridor and was taken to A&E, where she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It could have been there for years.

“We would like to see something to diagnose tumours from an early age. Gemma’s could have been there from birth.

“You obviously can’t scan every child, but if it had been found earlier, some kind of treatment could have been started. Brain tumours particularly affect young people and so there’s so much life to save.

“What hurts most is not what we have lost but what she has lost: 40 or 50 years of life.”

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Gemma carried on teaching until about a year before her death in November 2010 at the age of 29.

Her aunt, Mary Burton, said: “She was such a lovely woman, such a popular teacher, so full of life and so brave.”

Mrs Burton, who is also treasurer of the brain tumour charity Astro Fund, based in Sedgeford, Norfolk, said: “We are calling on MPs not to forget brain tumours and to do what they can to ensure that a fairer, more proportionate amount of research spend is devoted to brain tumour research, that under the new NHS structures NICE’s best practice guidance is finally implemented and that health workers are given the support they need to make prompt, accurate diagnosis of brain tumours.”

Brain tumours kill more people under 40 than any other cancer and, unlike many other cancers, survival rates have not significantly improved in the UK for more than 40 years.

But the disease receives just 0.7% of funds allocated to cancer research.

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