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The Stars Will Still Be There

Extracts from Nicola Nuttall’s book – The Stars Will Still Be There

Nicola Nuttall’s memoir was published on May 9 and we were lucky enough to receive a proof copy from publishers HarperCollins.  

The book, based on the cathartic journal Nicola kept at the time of her daughter Laura’s diagnosis with Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), is an admirably honest account of what the whole family went through.  

It illustrates how difficult it can be to navigate your way in the world of the seriously ill. At different times you may need to be nurse, advocate, scientist, fundraiser, public speaker or negotiator – all while being a heartbroken parent or sibling.   

But it’s also a celebration of Laura’s incredibly determined nature, her family’s resilience and a tribute to the generosity of strangers who wanted to ensure Laura made the most of every minute. They were willing to offer all sorts from their time to free flights, top class haircuts, upgraded hotel rooms and backstage meet-and-greets.  

At The Brain Tumour Charity, Laura’s legacy spurs us on to do more to support everyone affected by a brain tumour and everyone whose life she touched as one of our Young Ambassadors (YAMs)

You can buy the book here, but to give you a taster of what to expect, here are some key extracts: 

Falling through a trap door

November 2018  

“Being told that your child is going to die, completely out of the blue, is like falling through a trap door.

The natural order of your life, the milestones you took for granted – the 21st, the graduation, their first home, perhaps one day a wedding, maybe even grandchildren – a whole life story on flickering Cinefilm, but the celluloid lingers too long in the projectors, burns white hot and disintegrates.  

That was the future you could have had. You can imagine it; you can almost taste the birthday cake… but it’s not for you. 

I had always thought Laura would do something extraordinary, but then I had always thought she would live.

I would take ordinary now; I would thank you profusely and shake your hand, I’d be so grateful for normal and unexceptional…. 

For a parent, nothing can be worse than being told your child is terminally ill, but for a sibling, the loss is perhaps even more devastating.

Not that there’s a universal measurement scale for loss and grief – like the heat of chillies or the clarity of diamonds – but siblings, and perhaps sisters, will always have a unique and unbreakable bond……

They’re the ones who share all your childhood memories – the in-jokes nobody else will ever understand, the stories, the dramas, the plans, the obscure references. What happens to all those memories when you are the only one left to remember them?

Manchester Pride

August 2019 

“As a Young Ambassador, Laura was always looking for ways to promote the work of The Brain Tumour Charity.

She had distributed hundreds of HeadSmart cards to schools and surgeries, and shared her experiences in the media, but it was while we were away in South Africa that she had had her big lightbulb moment. 

‘Why don’t we see if we can get a group together to represent The Brain Tumour Charity at Manchester Pride?’ 

Before we’d returned home, she’d got the OK from the charity, applied, paid, and was rallying friends and fellow ambassadors to take part. It was a perfect opportunity to cross number 10 off the bucket list, definitely fulfilling the criteria of ‘a rally or march for something I believe in’. 

Pride weekend was gloriously sunny. We were all kitted out in our red Brain Tumour Charity t-shirts, accessorised with wings, flowers, flags, rainbow skirts, bucket loads of glitter and anything else we could think of. 

All except Mark – he came down the stairs wearing a blue t-shirt with the words Proud Dad printed in rainbow letters. He’s a man of few words, but sometimes his tender-hearted gestures speak volumes.” 

A photo of Laura Nuttall marching at Manchester Pride wearing a The Brain Tumour Charity t-shirt. Laura has a Pride flag draped over her shoulder and she beams as she waves a little Pride flag in one hand and grasps a drink in her other hand.


Unexpected kindness

Walking through London’s Covent Garden one day, Nicola spotted a flagship hair salon and wondered if she could treat Laura to a new haircut if it was with a junior stylist. 

They had an appointment available within the hour, so Laura and Nicola went for an ice cream and a bookshop browse and then returned, only to be told:

“I’m really sorry, but the junior stylist who was cutting your hair isn’t here now, so it’s going to have to be one of our directors instead. Is that OK?’ 

Nicola continues: “I gulped, trying to remember by what factor that would increase the cost of the cut. 

‘Umm, yes, of course. That’s fine.’ 

“Laura was taken through into the dazzling salon, which seemed to be populated entirely by the beautiful people of London, while I enjoyed a pot of loose-leaf tea, having turned down the glass of fizz. 

I watched as Laura’s hair was cut by a real artist, delicately snipping away while giving tips on how to care for chemo hair and encourage it to grow. There wasn’t a great deal to work with but when she was finished Laura emerged looking like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby: her hair had been cut in an elfin style which emphasised her expressive eyes and slender neck. 

I no longer cared with it cost – this woman had waved a magic wand, and it was worth every penny. My eyes filled just to look at Laura and the huge smile she was wearing. 

We were escorted to the reception desk to pay, but the fabulous stylist shook her head. 

‘This one’s on us.’ 

There were hugs all round and we all ended up in tears – the stylist, the receptionist and me. It was the most wonderful and unexpected kindness and Laura was delighted with her new look. 

Who I am

October 2020 

“In light of Tom [Parker’s] diagnosis, The Brain Tumour Charity asked if Laura would talk to Radio 1’s Newsbeat about what it was like to be diagnosed with GBM.

As a Young Ambassador she felt a responsibility to share the work of the charity and was also keen to highlight the symptoms people should look out for. 

My favourite comment in the interview was, ‘They might know what I have, but they don’t know who I am.’