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Couple’s efforts to raise awarness of brain tumours after daughter’s tragic death

Marianne Buist is preparing to take part in the Norfolk Half Marathon in aid of HeadSmart, supported by Joyce and Colin Bell, whose daughter died of a brain tumour. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Marianne Buist is preparing to take part in the Norfolk Half Marathon in aid of HeadSmart, supported by Joyce and Colin Bell, whose daughter died of a brain tumour. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2014

A couple whose daughter died of an undiagnosed brain tumour in July 2006 are using their experience to help raise awareness of brain tumours to prevent other parents going through the same loss.

Colin and Joyce Bell’s daughter, Jennifer, was 22 when she died of an undiagnosed brain tumour after complaining of severe headaches to her GP for 11 months.

“We didn’t know she had a brain tumour,” said Mrs Bell.

“She collapsed at home and was rushed to hospital and it was when she had a CT scan doctors saw there was something that shouldn’t be there. But she died.”

Mrs Bell has been heavily involved for six years with The Brain Tumour Charity – she helps to run the Norfolk Brain Tumour Support Group – which funds Headsmart.

Headsmart is a charity set up in 2011 to help raise awareness of brain tumours and symptoms while also campaigning to reduce the time it takes to diagnose children and young people.

Both, Mrs Bell feels would have helped her daughter.

She said: “The main thing is the more people that are aware of the symptoms the quicker they can be referred and the earlier the diagnosis. If someone had put a list of the symptoms in front of me at the time then I might have known. Looking back there were subtle changes in Jennifer that could have been picked up.

“She’d had a squint for a few years, was quite slow at walking during her childhood and had changes in her behaviour, especially just before she died, she was more irritable.”

Despite Miss Bell complaining to her GP of headaches and a stiff neck, she was told it was stress related as Mr Bell had suffered recently had a stroke. However, the problems were so bad she was forced to give up her job as a passenger service agent at 
Norwich airport and was eventually referred for a “relatively urgent” MRI scan, which meant a 13 week wait – but she died three days before 
the scheduled appointment.

Mrs Bell added: “The physiotherapist who treated Jennifer’s stiff neck noticed something wasn’t right – despite all the symptoms they were not noted and were missed by healthcare people.”

The couple will be cheering on friend Marianne Buist at the Norwich Half Marathon Sunday as she raises money for Headsmart.

The 19-year-old University of East Anglia student, who helps Mr Bell, who has aphasia from his stroke, with his speech, as part of her speech and language therapy course, said:

“Running a half marathon was on my New Year’s resolution list. They are the reason I decided to run for Headsmart, as they moved me with their positive, make a difference attitude with all their hard work fundraising for research, and raising awareness of brain tumours in children and young adults.”

To sponor Marianne, visit https://www.justgiving.com/MBuist/

For more information about brain tumours, visit http://www.headsmart.org.uk or http://www.thebraintumourcharity.org

Are you doing something for charity? Email rebecca.murphy@archant.co.uk

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