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Woman given 12 months to live in 2018 graduates from university

The 22-year-old, who was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme in 2018, graduated with a degree in politics, philosophy and economics.

Woman given 12 months to live in 2018 graduates from university
Cover Image Source: The University of Manchester

A student who was given 12 months to live after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer has graduated from university in her continued mission to accomplish a long list of goals. Laura Nuttall, a student from Barrowford in Lancashire, England, was forced to leave school when a routine eye exam in 2018 revealed that she had Glioblastoma Multiforme, an aggressive and incurable brain cancer. She received additional devastating news shortly after her diagnosis when doctors informed her of the presence of eight tumors in her body and the crushing estimate that she only had about one year to live.


However, Nuttall was determined not to let the disease get the best of her and focused on getting the proper treatment while simultaneously working her way through a bucket list. "As soon as we found out, we were like 'right, we need a bucket list. What's going to be on that?' It's crazy to be thinking about these things, what you want to do before you die. When you're 19, you don't think about that sort of stuff," she told BBC back in 2019. Yet, faced with the possibility of imminent death, Nuttall set out to make the most of the time she had left.


Even as she bravely endured a craniotomy to remove the largest tumor and began a grueling course of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the young woman steadily worked her way through her bucket list which has included meeting the former first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, commanding a Royal Navy ship and a trip to the pub with comedian Peter Kay. Fortunately, the family then discovered an innovative new treatment available in Germany, and with the help of donations from friends, family and well-wishers online, Nuttall was able to start the immunotherapy.


Although she had to travel to Cologne every six weeks for the treatment, she responded so well to it that she was able to restart her studies. Nuttall resumed her education at The University of Manchester—to be closer to home—where she pursued a degree in politics, philosophy, and economics. "I am going back despite what people say. This tumor will not stop me," she said at the time. She did face some trouble in continuing the immunotherapy amid the pandemic as travel restrictions at the time posed a significant hurdle. Fortunately, the financial firm Greensill stepped up at this crucial moment to offer Nuttall a private jet to travel to Cologne.

Cover Image Source: The University of Manchester
Image Source: The University of Manchester

Despite the constant travel, more surgery, serving as an ambassador for The Brain Tumour Charity, and helping out in her community, Nuttall celebrated her graduation from university this month. "I don't think I would have been able to achieve my degree without the help and support provided by The University of Manchester, especially the student welfare officers. In my first year, I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it to graduation - never mind get a 2:1," she told the university in an interview. "Laura was told that she had a life expectancy of around a year and wouldn't be going back to university at all, so to see her graduate is just incredible," her mother, Nicola, stated. "I know how hard she's had to work to achieve her degree alongside her chemotherapy, surgery, and treatment, and this day is a real celebration of her tenacity. We really couldn't be more proud of her."

Image Source: The University of Manchester
Image Source: The University of Manchester

"I have met very few people with such a determination to live their life to the full," said Professor Jackie Carter, who formed a deep bond with Nuttall as she also has a child with an incurable brain tumor. "Unlike most of my students who are wondering what to do with their futures, Laura quite literally doesn't know what hers holds—but she's getting on with it, and doing it all with a spirit that shines through her every pore when you meet her." Nuttall now plans to continue her fundraising efforts for brain charities and raise awareness of brain conditions. She recently joined the board of Our Brain Bank, a charity working to turn glioblastoma from terminal to treatable.


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