Memory of sister, 30, drives woman's fundraising adventure to help find brain tumour cure
PUBLISHED: 13:34 30 September 2019 | UPDATED: 08:14 01 October 2019
A Norfolk woman is supporting research to find a cure for the disease that killed her little sister.
Julia Fairbrother, 51, from Diss, along with husband Christian and their friends Sam Mason and Rob Waddington from Botesdale, are undertaking a rickshaw adventure across Sri Lanka in memory of her sister Susan (Susy) Long, who passed away from a brain tumour a couple of weeks before her 31st birthday in December 2010.
They are supporting the charity, Brain Tumour Research, to help fund scientists working to find better outcomes for brain tumour patients.
Julia, a youth and community worker who is involved with Diss Youth Group, said: "I was 11 when Susy was born, while my older sister was 13 and my brother a year younger than me. It was a huge shock to find out that she had been diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma brain tumour after having experienced seizures for a number of weeks.
"She underwent an awake craniotomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy as the surgery wasn't successful in removing all of the tumour. However, the tumour spread to Susy's spine and the family were told that there was no further treatment available."
Susan grew up and lived in Roydon, attending Roydon Primary School, as well as Diss High School. She worked as a technical operator in an electronics factory and, as part of her job, was responsible for training people both in the UK and in Mexico.
She was a keen darts player, playing for local pub teams with her sisters and friends.
"Susy was a loving daughter, sister and aunty, was kind, really helpful and a great animal-lover - she had all the good bits of each of us. Losing her at such a young age is something I don't think I will ever get over," said Julia.
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Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet historically just one per cent of cancer research spending has been allocated to this devastating disease.
The four friends, plus two other American adventure buddies, are self-funding their Sri Lanka Rickshaw Run trip, so all monies will go to Brain Tumour Research and Cool Earth - which makes the trip carbon neutral.
They will join participants who set out from a point on the west coast of Sri Lanka on October 13, having had just a brief opportunity to get to grips with their auto rickshaw. They will be given a map and told to reach a point on the south coast of the island by October 19.
Julia said: "The Adventurists have warned us that the 198cc auto rickshaw is apparently not much more than a powered wheelbarrow so barely powerful enough to carry itself, let alone two adventure buddies and their rucksacks!
"It has a 10.5bhp engine, tiny wheels, practically no ground clearance and bad suspension. There is little protection against the elements, it is incredibly unreliable and there is no support team on hand to fix brakes or mend a puncture."
Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It 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.
Paula Rastrick, community fundraising manager, said: "We are very grateful to Julia and her husband and friends for taking on this challenge.
"Susan's story reminds us that brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age. Together, with the help of all our supporters, we will find a cure."
- Click to donate in support of Julia's Rickshaw Run