A YOUNG mum who is battling terminal brain cancer says the upcoming EastEnders episode featuring Lola Pearce-Brown’s funeral will be ‘too hard’ to watch.
Laura Mahon, 31, from St Helens, Merseyside, knows one day her family will have to go through the same heartache.
Laura Mahon was pregnant when she started experiencing headaches and sickness
She realised she was really unwell when she had numbness in her limbs
The mum of one was given the devastating diagnosis that she had a brain tumour – glioblastoma
Despite treatment, she did think she’s make it to her daughter Sienna’s first birthday
Laura has the same cancer as EastEnders character Lola Pearce-Brown
Laura has the same cancer as Lola, played by Danielle Harold, and while the storyline has been difficult for Laura to watch, she has praised EastEnders for shining a light on brain tumours.
Glioblastoma, or GMB, is one of the country’s biggest killers in children and under 40s with a shocking survival time of between 12-18 months – and as little as six months if left untreated.
Laura didn’t know anything about glioblastomas when she was given the devastating diagnosis at 23 weeks pregnant in September 2021.
Initially, the beautician wasn’t too concerned when she started to suffer from headaches and sickness, putting them down to classic pregnancy symptoms.
However, when she woke up one morning unable to feel her toes and became sensitive to bright lights, panicked Laura went to hospital.
Laura said: “There were a few times where I kept falling over my feet, so I’d been to the doctors to be checked over, but when I woke up one morning and I couldn’t feel my feet, I knew it couldn’t be my pregnancy.
“I was worried enough to go to hospital, but never thought it would be anything like a brain tumour.
“The doctors reassured me and said the numbness was likely caused by the baby sitting on a nerve.
“I was even told they didn’t think it would be a brain tumour because I looked too healthy. I also hadn’t had any seizures.”
However, the scan revealed Laura had a deadly glioblastoma tumour and doctors would need to act quickly once her baby was born.
“My first thought was my baby,” says Laura.
“The doctors said they couldn’t tell which grade the tumour was without a biopsy and it was too dangerous to do that while I was pregnant.
“They said I should try and go to 36 weeks pregnant and then have a c-section.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My world just fell apart.”
As Laura and her husband Danny tried to process the news, Laura’s health began to quickly deteriorate.
She started to lose movement in one arm and leg and by 30 weeks pregnant was struggling to walk.
Doctors told Laura she couldn’t wait any longer and she gave birth to her beautiful daughter Sienna on November 30, 2021, weighing just 3lbs 4oz, at Warrington Hospital.
But instead of being able to enjoy the newborn baby bubble with her husband, Laura was back in hospital at the Walton Centre in Liverpool for the biopsy.
“It was two days before Christmas and I went to get the results and they confirmed it was a Grade 4,” remembers Laura.
“I had read enough about glioblastomas by this point to know how bad it was.
“I asked the consultant, ‘How long do I have?’ I felt like I needed to know.
“They told me it was unlikely I would be here for Sienna’s first birthday.
“I knew my prognosis wouldn’t be great, but hearing it out loud was very, very hard.
“It just didn’t feel real at all, like it wasn’t happening to me.”
‘IN A VERY BAD PLACE’
In January 2022, when Sienna was just a few weeks old, Laura started a six week course of radiotherapy combined with chemotherapy, but it took such a toll on her already frail body, she ended up with liver failure.
“I couldn’t walk and had to use a wheelchair and I felt sick all of the time,” says Laura.
“I really struggled and was in a very bad place. But then one day I just thought, ‘I have to get on with this.’
“Danny was amazing. He would get up and do the night feeds, then he’d take me to the hospital for me to have my radiotherapy.
“He was there for me when I was sick, and when I lost my hair.
“I was so lucky to have a good support network around me and I don’t know what I would have done without him, my parents or my in-laws.”
In October 2022, Laura was given some good news – her tumour had shown no sign of growth and was stable.
A month later she and utilities worker Danny celebrated their daughter’s first birthday – a precious milestone she thought she would miss.
“It was a very special day,” says Laura. “It was important not to make it about the tumour, but to celebrate our little girl and the fact her Mummy was still here.”
However, in January this year Laura faced a devastating setback when a routine scan showed her tumour had grown.
Laura says: “The doctors put me back onto chemotherapy for another six months, but then in February I had a huge seizure.
“Danny was told to take time off work and to prepare for the worst.
“They said things were looking really bad for me and that they couldn’t see me recovering.
“I knew I needed to throw everything at this that I possibly could.”
As well as a new chemotherapy drug, Laura also turned to brain tumour charity Ahead of the Game Foundation, who offered her a number of alternative therapies, such as an oxygen treatment and red light therapy.
In April, despite spending ten days in hospital with Covid, Laura was told her tumour was once again stable.
She is now determined to make Sienna’s second birthday this November.
Laura says: “When something like this happens to you, you can either accept it, or you can just curl up in a ball and cry about it.
“I can’t change anything so I have chosen to accept it and try to enjoy the life I have left.
“I want to make as many happy memories as I can with my family.
“I make sure I separate being a mum to Sienna from my life at the hospital – I don’t want the two things to become blurred.”
Laura has praised EastEnders bosses and actress Danielle for sharing Lola’s story and for giving brain tumours a platform.
“It has obviously been very hard to watch, but I think it’s amazing that EastEnders have taken on this story.
“They have shown that the diagnosis just doesn’t affect the person going through it, but the whole family too.
“I think Lola’s funeral will be too hard for me to watch, but Danielle has done a brilliant job in raising awareness.”
Like Lola, Laura has started making a memory box and writing birthday cards for her daughter.
She has also discussed with Danny who she would like with her at the end of her life and songs she’d like at her funeral.
Laura says: “I think it’s important for me to share with Danny what I’d like.
“It wouldn’t be fair to leave it all to him. It also gives me something I have control over.
“I’m trying not to look too far into the future and take each day as it comes, but I also know I need to be prepared.
“I will get cards for Sienna for her 16th, 18th and 21st birthdays. I’ve also told Danny to take her to ballet lessons as I’d love her to be a ballerina.
“We’ve also started a memory box and I have a Build A Bear with my voice in it.
“It’s obviously very upsetting to make these preparations, but then I think there are people that are not lucky enough to get the chance to do this.
“If my tumour has taught me anything it is to get out there and make the most of everything.
“I had a very normal life before this and it just goes to show it can happen to anybody.
“We don’t know what’s around the corner.
“For now, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and fight as hard as I can for my family and future.”
Follow Laura on Instagram @lauradowntherabbithole.
For more information on Ahead of the Game Foundation, visit www.aheadofthegamefoundation.com.
Now, Laura is hoping to see her daughter Sienna’s second birthday in November
Laura is so glad EastEnders has shone a light on brain tumours and the impact they have on families
Did you miss our previous article…