Debra Espin died two years after her diagnosis with an aggressive type of brain tumour. At the age of 55, she left her husband Bernard, their two children Graham and Becky, and grandchildren, Kacey (15) and Oscar (4).
A friendly face in the Louth community, Debra worked as a senior carer at Crowtree House Residential Home in Louth for more than 15 years, before becoming a self-employed foot practitioner.
In November, nine members of Debra’s family, including her siblings and niece, placed a commemorative tile on a Wall of Hope at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). The charity Brain Tumour Research funds a research centre at the university.
The tile represents the £2,740 it costs to fund a day of research and celebrates the fundraising achievements of Debra’s family members, who have raised more than £6,500 for Brain Tumour Research to date.
Debra’s niece Kelly White, 43, who helped organise the fundraising, said: “Debra was positive and dignified throughout her illness.
“She was keen to support Brain Tumour Research and fundraised for the charity with Becky. Her death left a huge gap in our family and she is desperately missed.
“On the first anniversary of Debra’s death, I pledged to raise £2,740 for Brain Tumour Research. My family got behind me and we held a number of fundraising events like coffee mornings, discos and barbecues, and received generous donations from friends in lieu of presents.
“We were amazed to have smashed our target and to have raised more than £6,500 and we were very grateful for the support of the local community, including family, friends and local businesses.
“We have plans for more events in 2020 and hope to hold a fundraising ball.”
After the tile placing, Kelly and Debra’s sisters Fiona, Mary, Linda and Valerie attended a lab tour led by Professor Silvia Marino and her team, who are studying glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) tumours – one of the most aggressive types of brain cancer and the type that Debra was diagnosed with.
Michael Thelwall, head of community fundraising at Brain Tumour Research, said: “We are very grateful for the support of Kelly and her family and we hope they inspire others to fundraise for Brain Tumour Research.
“Debra’s story reminds us that less than 20 per cent of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50 per cent across all cancers. What’s more, historically less than 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.”
Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK, and also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure as soon as possible. The charity is calling for an annual spend of £35m in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes.
• To support of Debra’s family, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kelly-white21