In 1994, when Samantha Dickson was just 14, she began suffering from deep-seated headaches, vomiting and episodes of memory loss. Despite numerous visits to the GP and a specialist paediatrician, it took nine months for Samantha to receive a diagnosis.
After collapsing and being rushed to Southampton hospital, Samantha was scanned and diagnosed with a rare form of high grade glioma known as a gliomatosis cerebri.
Sadly, the prognosis was terminal.
For the next two and a half years Samantha and her parents, Neil and Angela, battled to save her life. Despite her incredible bravery and some remission from the radiotherapy, Samantha lost her battle on the 31 October 1996 – just seven days before her 17th birthday.
At Samantha’s funeral, Neil and Angela received £20,000 in donations but discovered there was no charity in the UK they could donate the money to that was dedicated to furthering research into brain tumours.
They also found there was also a total lack of research and support for families and patients with brain tumours, despite the fact that brain tumours were the second most common childhood cancer and killed more people under the age of 40 than any other cancer
So, Neil and Angela decided to establish The Samantha Dickson Research Trust, which originally operated from the study at their home. This was a decision that didn’t just change their lives but changed the entire landscape of research into brain tumours.
Fast forward 25 years (not to mention a handful of moves to new premises, three rebrands and a couple of mergers with other small brain tumour charities in the UK) and The Charity has now committed more than £38 million to research into brain tumours – more than any other organisation of its kind in the world.
Breakthroughs made because of research funded by The Brain Tumour Charity have led to real-world improvements in the treatment and care of those diagnosed with a brain tumour. On top of this, The Charity now provides a wide range of support services for families affected by brain tumours and awareness campaigns led by The Charity have drastically reduced diagnosis times for children,
In 2014, Neil and Angela Dickson received an MBE for their services to the brain tumour community and in 2020 they also received the newly-launched Paediatric Neuro-Oncology Community Service Award from the International Society of Paediatric Neuro-Oncologists (ISPNO) at the annual ISPNO2020 conference.
Dr Koichi Ichimura, Chair of ISPNO2020, said Mr and Mrs Dickson had been the ‘strongest supporters’ of research into childhood brain tumours over many years.
“Through their endless dedication and tireless work, they have helped a great many researchers, patients and families across the years.
While still being deeply involved with The Charity as Trustees, Neil and Angela now manage The Samantha Dickson Fund, a supporter group within The Brain Tumour Charity that was established in 2020, making sure Samantha’s name will never be lost. This also means that all the money raised in Samantha’s name will now be restricted to high grade glioma, the tumour type that she had.
The Samantha Dickson Fund 25th Anniversary Dinner Dance will be a celebration of everything The Charity has been able to achieve over the last 25 years thanks to Neil and Angela.
“It only seems like yesterday when we sat around our kitchen table and established the UK’s first dedicated Brain Tumour Charity 25 years ago. The Anniversary Ball on 18th June is very special to Angela and me. Firstly, it celebrates Samantha’s amazing legacy and the progress made in tackling this devastating disease. Secondly, despite our many successes we acknowledge we still have a mountain to climb. Since we started the dreadful statistic that brain cancer kills more children and adults under 40 than any other cancer still stands in 2022. The aim of the Samantha Dickson Fund is to make this quote obsolete.
“Funds raised in Samantha’s Fund are restricted to first class international research into high grade brain tumours in children and adults. Despite major advances in the understanding of the biological make up of these tumours, we have not been able to translate this into new clinical treatments. Sam’s Fund will kick start this process with new research this year.
“Angela and I are delighted that so many of our 250 guests have supported us right from the very beginning of setting up the Charity, with many more supporters becoming friends over the years.”
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