Susanna was three months short of her 34th birthday when she died on 26th March 2008. She was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1996 having experienced some seizures earlier in the year. For 12 years she courageously fought this dreadful disease which would eventually claim her life.
An ‘A’ Grade Student at School during the late 80s and early 90s, she was individualistic yet sociable, charming and humorous with a wicked sense of fun. Adventurous but not conventionally sporty, she twice completed the Ten Tors Expedition on Dartmoor. During her ‘A’ Level year, having little time to participate herself, she encouraged disabled children to discover the Moor she loved so much. She loved sailing and became a dinghy sailing instructor as well as taking part in the Fastnet Race.
At School she discovered her talent and passion for music and singing which was to last for life. She had a beautiful singing voice and was the alto soloist of choice in the School Choir. She sang with her University College Choir and with Magdalen, Keble and Queen’s College Choirs in Oxford. Latterly she loved to sing at the St Endellion Easter Festival.
Susanna’s days at Downing College, Cambridge where she read Archaeology and Anthropology, were amongst her happiest. She blossomed, throwing herself wholeheartedly into most aspects of College life. She captained her College Ladies Rowing Eight. Friendships made at this time were to last for the rest of her life.
She graduated from Cambridge with a First Class Degree in 1995 and moved to Oxford to edit learned scientific journals. It was whilst working in Oxford that she suffered the first of a series of seizures which were to lead to the diagnosis of a malignant brain tumour.
On the day that she was due to start her Masters Degree in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Susanna was undergoing a biopsy at the National Hospital! A course of radiotherapy followed, but she continued with her studies, including teaching herself advanced statistics, and completed her Masters Degree.
A spell in London followed during which time she met her future husband William. They were married in Plymouth on the 7th April 2001. They settled happily in the Oxford area and the early years of marriage were happy and busy years. Susanna was rightly proud of being awarded a Welcome Trust grant for her Doctorate at Magdalen College Oxford studying the Epidemiology and Evolution of Dengue Fever. During her research Susanna’s tumour, which had been in remission for nearly five years, returned and she underwent a course of chemotherapy whilst still undertaking fieldwork in Vietnam and Senegal with the Pasteur Institute. She subsequently was able to sequence the genes of the virus, carried by a mosquito, responsible for dengue fever. She was awarded her Doctorate in 2003.
Sadly as the years passed the tumour became more and more aggressive and the chemotherapy less effective. Although she was physically able to do less and less her determination and courage with William by her side remained unimpaired.
Susanna felt very strongly that insufficient funds were being directed into research for the treatment of and eventual cure for brain cancer. She lobbied her MP (David Cameron) and with the help of Neil and Angela Dickson from the Charity, this led to a private meeting with Professor Mike Richards, National Clinical Director for Cancer. Following Susanna’s initiative, Professor Richards announced that he would make sure brain cancer was highlighted in the new Cancer Reform Strategy.
The last months of Susanna life were indescribably difficult for her, her husband William, and her family, yet she faced this period with her usual courage and dignity. Her life has touched so many people and will continue to do so for years to come. She achieved more in her short life than most of us could ever hope to. Her philosophy was simply to live every day to the full, seize everything on offer and take every opportunity as a gift to relish. She did just that.
William and Susanna’s family have set up a fund in her memory, under The Brain Tumour Charity banner, the aim of which is to continue the campaign to raise funds to further research into brain tumours which she started and for which she worked so hard. That is what she wanted.