Profile shot of Baljit Mehat, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year. Image: Brain Tumour Research.

A woman from Potton, in Bedfordshire is speaking out about her father’s terminal brain tumour to raise awareness of the disease at the start of National glioblastoma Awareness Week, which starts from today.

Simran Poonia, a loving daughter, was left stunned by her father, Baljit Mehat’s shock brain tumour diagnosis last year.

Now she is speaking out about her father’s terminal illness in a bid to raise awareness of the need for greater investment in research.

According to Brain Tumour Research, a powerful campaigning organisation that represents the voice of the brain tumour community across the UK, less than 12% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50% across all cancers.

The 34-year-old social worker from Potton, Bedfordshire, said: “It came completely out of the blue and we were left shocked, wondering why us? What had caused it?”

Baljit, a 59-year-old father-of-four from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, was on his way to a football match when he became shaky and confused in October 2021. He was driven to the hospital where scans detected a mass on his brain.

Within weeks he was undergoing brain surgery but the COVID restrictions in place meant that he was without his family for support.

Simran, a mum-of-two, said: “Knowing that he had woken up from surgery alone, without the comfort of having someone familiar with him, was the worst thing. The fact that you could go to a football match and sit among thousands of people but Mum wasn’t even allowed to sit by his hospital bed made me so angry.”

A biopsy of Baljit’s tumour revealed the devastating news that he had a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme, also known as GBM is a fast-growing tumour that is very challenging to treat.

In January he started taking a drug called AZD1390 in combination with radiotherapy as part of a clinical trial, however, his tumour is currently stable and his doctors have told him to enjoy the things he wants to do whilst he is still fit and healthy enough to do so.

His son, Kirpal, has even brought his wedding forward six months, just so that his father will be in attendance.

Simran said: “I wanted us to try and spend Christmas together and we did but it was bittersweet because my youngest sister ended up having a baby on 29 December so couldn’t be with us.

“Dad was also weaker and too tired to do the things he usually does, such as dress up as Santa on Christmas Eve, which we all wished he had been able to do, and he’d lost a lot of weight.

“I remember looking at him as he was carving the turkey and thinking how different he appeared. He never said it could be his last Christmas but I know we were all thinking it.”

She added: “My two sisters and I are married but my brother was due to marry his fiancée in April 2023 so we started thinking about whether to bring their wedding forward.

“It was a really difficult conversation to have but we said it was more about ensuring dad would enjoy the day rather than do with concerns we had about him deteriorating or not be around at all if we waited.

“It’s now due to take place in October, which isn’t the simplest of things because it’s a Sikh wedding involving around 500 guests. We’ve had to change the venue but are all pitching in to help make it as special as can be.

“It’s painful to think about Dad not being with us but I feel like I’m prepared for what will happen. I’m not accepting it, but I am preparing for it.”

Simran is working with the charity Brain Tumour Research to share her father’s story during GBM Awareness Week, which takes place in the UK from Monday 18 July.

According to Brain Tumour Research, GBM is the most commonly diagnosed high-grade brain tumour in adults. It is fast-growing and the average survival time is just 12 to 18 months. Treatment options are extremely limited and there is no cure.

Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said:

“What Baljit and his family are going through is devastating but, sadly, it is not unique. Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet historically, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to the disease. This needs to change but it’s only by working together that we will be able to improve treatment options for patients and, ultimately, find a cure.”