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My journey as a Young Ambassador – Guest post by Lauren Nicholls

Lauren, one of our Young Ambassadors has written about her experience of living with a brain tumour and working with The Charity.

Lauren Nicholls stands under a starting arch as she tells the story of becoming a Young Ambassador for The Brain Tumour Charity

Lauren tells her story in her own words

Lauren’s brain tumour diagnosis

Wow, what an incredible two years it’s been!!!

I was diagnosed with a brain tumour called a polymixiid astrocytoma when I was 18 months old. The effects of the brain tumour left me with a right-sided weakness to my arm, hand, leg and foot.

Although I’ve been in remission for over a decade, I still feel very self-conscious of my disability and what people might think of me when I’m out in public. That’s why I prefer socialising with my select group of friends as they accept me for who I am. I sometimes feel lonely and isolated as throughout a lot of my life, certainly during primary and secondary school, people use to ignore me. Instead of just speaking to me, they would just glare at me.

Although sometimes I will admit I feel anxious, lonely, isolated I try to surround myself with my family and friends who understand how I feel and never judge me for feeling in this way. They’ve always been there to support me and encourage me to follow my dreams of whatever I want to do in the future.

I do feel very grateful for the life I live. I know my situation could’ve been a lot worse. There are people with disabilities who are affected a lot worse by their disability than myself, which is a huge aspect that my family have helped me realise over the years.

I was always told by the doctors and nurses when I was going through treatment that due to the lasting effects of the tumour, I would probably never be able to read or write again. But my parents were determined not to let this happen. They encouraged me to overcome this challenge by doing extra work outside of school and having tuition lessons to help.

I’ve always struggled with maths, especially during my GCSEs. I think my biggest achievement was when I passed my GCSE maths third time lucky after having to resit several times and having multiple tutors supporting me to pass the exams.

A lot of people within society don’t understand the everyday challenges that a person with a disability has to go through and the effects their disability has on their personal life. I definitely feel as though more can be done to raise awareness of the effects and challenges that people with disabilities have to go through within every day of their lives.

Becoming a Young Ambassador

A group of Young Ambassadors smile under a finishing arch for an event by The Brain Tumour Charity

I applied to be a Young Ambassador at a time when I was struggling to accept my disability, feeling very alone and isolated from anyone who truly understood me and everything I’d been through.

I think lockdown was my biggest mental challenge of not really being able to socialise or see anyone, which was partly how I found out about the Young Ambassador programme – what a lucky find!

I no longer wake up and look in the mirror feeling self-conscious of my scars and imperfections. I’ve learnt to embrace myself for who I am and not let people’s looks and stares bother me. The most rewarding part of my journey has been meeting so many incredible people and spending time getting to know other young people who’ve been through similar life experiences. That was something I never had growing up.

The amount of emotional support and compassion we all have for each other will be something that continues to live on as we stay in touch in the future.

I’ve done so much as a Young Ambassador. The list of opportunities and events has been incredible.

Lauren’s experiences as a Young Ambassador

I remember when I started my journey, I made a list of all the things I took part in. But, maybe six months in, I lost track! From clinical trials and t-shirt brand promotions to sharing my story with the BBC, helping out at fundraising events and meetings with my MP – the list just continues to grow.

The staff are incredible human beings for everything they do and have certainly helped me grow as a person. Now that I’ve ended my time as a Young Ambassador, I feel more confident and proud to be me. I have a much better understanding that everyone is unique in their own way!

Everyone’s story is different, unique and personal in their own way. I absolutely loved Tom Parker, he was an incredible man and super talented, an icon in the music industry.

People don’t deserve to have their whole life ripped apart and smashed to pieces. It truly means a lot to me to fight for every single person who’s in a hospital bed hoping they’ll make it after an operation and everybody who loses hope of ever living a normal and happy life.

I have and will continue to help raise awareness and vital funding until a cure for brain tumours has been found. I want to give something back to The Charity for everything they gave to me and my family when I was fighting for my life.

I have so many memories to take away with me and continue fighting for change and fundraising for a cure. Meeting everyone for the first time at The Charity’s HQ in Fleet was so scary but so rewarding to meet everyone and get to know each other.

The activities were fun too, I think I was expecting our first meet-up to be very formal and full of workshops. But it really wasn’t! Instead, it was definitely an experience that helped me to understand that my self-consciousness and body image issues was the pressure and words coming from me, no one else.

The zipwire experience on the Young Ambassadors residential retreat was super nerve-racking when gusts of wind rattled and shook the wooden tower we jumped off! Huddling together as a group and listening to everyone’s life stories was a priceless moment for me, as we watched each other shoot down the zipwire. Even if we were freezing cold!

A young woman does a presentation at The Brain Tumour Charity

What’s next?

Lauren turned away from the camera looking at a message board that says Going Further for a Cure!

I honestly couldn’t say what my top highlight is of being a Young Ambassador, as the whole journey has just been life changing. I feel so grateful to each member of staff I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting for making me laugh, smile and cry.

I can also say I’ve 100% made friends for life too and I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone who was in the 2021-23 cohort of Young Ambassadors.

The Brain Tumour Charity has changed me as a person. Although my time as a Young Ambassador is over, I can’t wait to continue my journey with The Charity and help move us further, faster to find a cure. The Brain Tumour Charity changed my life and I want to continue helping change other people’s lives for the better.