The sad truth of why charities need influencers

Baroness Tessa Jowell

The news of the death of Tessa Jowell on Saturday from a brain tumour was greeted by an outpouring of affection. The tributes were to a woman who – above all – was thoroughly decent, warm, friendly and principled and who had gained respect and admiration from all sides of the political spectrum.

Her career saw many notable moments, including advancing equal pay for women, the SureStart programme for children and, of course, bringing the Olympics to London in 2012.

But her lasting achievement may turn out to be what she managed to achieve in the final months of her life, influencing the government to speed up and change its course on the treatment and research into brain tumours.

As someone who works for The Brain Tumour Charity I am inevitably biassed, but we have been astonished at the speed at which things changed as a result of Tessa Jowell’s intervention into this area.

Many of the decisions that have been and are being taken by the UK Government are on things that we – as a charity – have been advocating for a considerable time.

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Seve Ballesteros joins the club

Seve BallesterosFollowing his collapse last week, it’s sad to hear that Seve Ballesteros has been diagnosed with a brain tumour.

The reason I’m more interested in this than any other normal health/sports story is that my dad also has a brain tumour.

Brain tumour conjures up lots of images and, to be honest, I’m still not sure I totally get it. Basically, there’s some sort of mass growing inside your head that slowly starts to cause problems as it puts pressure on various other bits of the brain.

Sometimes, they can be operated on, but more often than not brain tumours are treated using radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Many shrink, often enough to be removed through surgery, but not all do. My dad has been through radiotherapy and one-and-a-half lots of chemo, until the consultants in charge decided to stop, because his particular tumour is resistant to the chemo.

Life expectancy is hazy. It can be as short as 1 year and sometimes as long as 10-15 years – it’s a bit ‘how long is a piece of string?’ I’m not even sure how long my Dad’s had his – it was diagnosed about 18 months – 2 years ago, but was obviously there before it was eventually picked up.

I’m sure Seve will have access to top specialists, but that may not be enough. Even if they do get it once, tumours have a nasty habit of reappearing and you can never be sure you’ve got it all the first time.

Good luck, Seve!