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The glioblastoma diagnosis that changed our lives

Five years on, Nikki Saunders shares her experience of both her mum and brother being diagnosed with a glioblastoma.

On 6th September 2018 Nikki’s mum Susan received a glioblastoma diagnosis. Then just two days later, her brother Paul was diagnosed with the same aggressive brain tumour. 

Paul and his wife Sarah had just returned from their holiday when they found out about Susan’s glioblastoma diagnosis. However, while visiting Susan in hospital Paul had an episode that led Nikki, a former nurse in the NHS, to demand that he had a scan. They suspected he’d had a stroke. 

Paul went straight to A&E and to the family’s horror, he was also diagnosed with a glioblastoma.  

Paul had no symptoms until a few days before his diagnosis. He was experiencing numbness in his right hand followed by stiffness in his right leg and a bad headache. 

As you can imagine, we were devastated. Having to tell my mum that Paul also had the same type of brain tumour is something I will never forget. Paul was determined that him and mum would beat this. They were both so brave and showed dignity, strength and love to us all throughout.” 

Nikki Saunders
Nikki (left), Susan (middle) and Paul (right) standing together before the glioblastoma diagnosis that shook the family.

Just seven weeks after diagnosis

Paul became very unwell five weeks after his glioblastoma diagnosis when he was due to start radio- and chemotherapy, and died just two weeks later – seven weeks after diagnosis, at just 42 years old.  

Sadly, just 11 weeks later, Susan also died at the age of 77. 

Susan and Paul on his wedding day, before either received their glioblastoma diagnosis.
Susan with Paul at his wedding
Paul and his wife Sarah on their wedding day, before Paul's glioblastoma diagnosis.
Paul with his wife Sarah on their wedding day

Raising funds and awareness

Nikki said: “Words cannot describe what we went through or how missed and loved my brother and mum are.” 

The whole family are committed to raising money for The Brain Tumour Charity in Paul’s name and raising vital awareness of this devastating disease which has taken so much from their family.

Sarah, Paul’s wife ran a virtual London marathon in New York and has also run the London Marathon. Keith, Paul and Nikki’s dad walked 150 miles in his walker and more recently Nikki climbed Snowdon. 

She said: “Climbing Snowdon is massively out of my comfort zone but I know Paul and mum would have climbed the highest mountain to get better and save each other, so it’s the least I could do. I was my turn to be brave, I just hope they’ll both be proud of me.” 

Sarah in a Brain Tumour Charity hoodie after she completed the London marathon in memory of her husband who died following a glioblastoma diagnosis.
Sarah after completing the marathon
Keith in a Brain Tumour Charity t-shirt during his charity fundraiser in memory of his wife and son who both died following a glioblastoma diagnosis.
Keith during his fundraising

Some of our glioblastoma research

Dr Tyler Miller