Laura and her family and trying everything they can to help Stuart (Picture: Laura Caluori)
In January this year, Laura Caluori received a phone call that would change her life.
She was told that her 39-year-old brother, Stuart, had been diagnosed with a glioblastoma – a cancerous brain tumour the size of a £2 coin.
‘I Googled it straight away, which was probably the worst thing I could have done, as the prognosis, the statistics, and everything it said was just horrendous,’ Laura, 38, tells Metro.co.uk.
‘I then had to drive round to my mum’s house and break the news to her.’
Stuart had been experiencing headaches at the very start of the year and thought it might be down to his glasses. However, a routine eye test ruled this out.
A week later the sales advisor started forgetting words and couldn’t remember his girlfriend’s name – so was taken to A&E with a suspected stoke.
A CT scan revealed a mass that was diagnosed by medics as a grade four glioblastoma.
Due to Covid, none of Stuart’s family could visit him at Gloucester Royal Hospital – only his girlfriend, Esther, could remain as she lived with him.
After more tests and scans the family were given a sliver of hope, as medics said they would be able to operate on Stuart – but the surgery was considered high-risk.
However, over the course of a three-week wait (including a Covid isolation period) Stuart’s tumour grew rapidly and a pre-operation scan revealed the extent of its progression.
‘We received a phone call, which was horrific,’ remembers Laura. ‘We were told that the tumour had rapidly grown through the midline of his brain, over to the right side, so it was no longer safe to operate on him.’
Laura has a JustGiving page running for Stuart (Picture: Laura Caluori)
‘He’s been a typical older brother and would never let a fly hurt me’ (Picture: Laura Caluori)
With surgery no longer an option, Stuart was put onto the six weeks of radiotherapy, followed by intense chemotherapy.
During this time, Laura and Esther spent hours researching and reading books on glioblastoma – a condition they had never previously heard about. They also found out that there were more options for treatment – beyond the NHS and the UK.
‘Glioblastoma is only “incurable” because the NHS doesn’t have the treatments to cure it,’ explains Laura. ‘But actually the tumours themselves aren’t incurable, they can be cured if you get the right treatment.’
The pair found a company in Germany specialising in all types of cancer and pioneering DNA sequencing and targeted therapies.
After sending over a biopsy of Stuart’s tumour, the family were given the go-ahead by the company to progress with a vaccine designed to help the immune system recognise the cancer cells and kill them off.
However, it came with a £67,000 price tag – something Laura and Esther managed to raise from loved ones and through donations.
HR advisor Laura says: ‘It was £10,000 for the evaluation and then £57,500 for the makeup of the vaccine. It took three months for them to pull together WHAT DOES THIS MEAN, WHO IS THEM? and luckily, with our friends and family getting together we have managed to hit our target.
‘Stuart was able to fly to Germany last month and received the first four of his vaccines,’ she adds. ‘We’ll know after seven if it’s working, so he has to go now once a month for a year.’
Stuart was diagnosed with a grade four glioblastoma (Picture: Laura Caluori)
He’s now receiving German vaccines as well as treatment in the UK (Picture: Laura Caluori)
However, in the face of such hope, the family have since received another blow.
In WHEN, an MRI scan revealed Stuart’s tumour had grown again – something which prompted doctors to change his course of UK treatment, which he’s been receiving alongside the German vaccines.
Medics decided to change his chemotherapy and suggested two new targeted drugs – neither of which are available on the NHS.
Now Laura is appealing far and wide to fundraise the money for these new drugs for Stuart, which cost £10,000 a month.
‘My brother is fighting for his life and we are fighting for the treatments to give him,’ she says.
‘The JustGiving page was initially for the vaccine but now we are looking for help to cover the costs of the new two targeted treatments, which will go alongside it. We’ve learned that not one thing will help, glioblastoma has to be targeted from all areas, so the more we can throw at it, the better chance of survival he has.
‘Anything that is recommended to us we are doing, so our only stopper is money, because who has this money? It’s ridiculous.’
Stuart is a dog dad to puppy Archie (Picture: Laura Caluori)
Stuart and his partner Esther recently got married and although already parents to a puppy called Archie, they hope to start a family soon.
‘He has so much to live for,’ says Laura. ‘Not just that, but he’s my brother and he’s always looked out for me.
‘He’s been a typical older brother and would never let a fly hurt me.
‘I can’t live without him.’
Because the brain tumour has left Stuart no longer able to read or write, Laura and Esther are doing everything they can to raise these funds and spread awareness.
‘He’s hit a bit of a dip recently but we truly believe that he can defy the odds and get the treatment he needs and turn this around,’ says Laura. and we look forward to hearing his success story.’ THIS SOUNDS WEIRD, AS IF THEY’RE DETACHED FROM THE EXPERIENCE, SO WOULD SUGGEST WE LOSE THAT LINE.
It’s Stuart’s dream to give back after this, and his wife Esther has been busy making a website to help others going through a glioblastoma diagnosis and looking for treatment options.
Her aim is to spread awareness and provide informative links to drugs, resources and options for patients and families.
‘Esther and I have learned so much,’ admits Laura. ‘We’ve seen how long it takes to get access to things, so on this website she’s putting all the links, everything that people can go to access different drugs and generate awareness of gliblastoma.
‘Around £700 million is spent on cancer research in the UK every year, yet less than 3% is spent on brain tumours, and it’s the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40.
‘We want to fight and do everything we can to get the funds to potentially get to save his life’, she adds. ‘By doing that, Stuart will have the most remarkable story and we can help others on their journeys.’
Stuart’s JustGiving page can be found here.
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