Last month, I turned 18. Every friend and member of my family was there to celebrate this milestone with me except one person: my father.
He died six years ago, from an extremely malignant form of cancer -- a brain tumor that spreads rapidly and is incredibly difficult to treat.
I was 11 years-old.
In under a year, he went from a man who held a high-powered job in the city with one of the biggest film companies in the world, razor sharp intelligence and traveled across the world, to lying in a hospice bed unable to speak and unable to recognize my face.
He died a week before I started high school, but in reality the person I knew and loved had left this earth months before, as his brain and body was overtaken by the tumor.
Whenever someone dies from cancer, the inevitable phrase "he/she fought" is constantly used -- but believe me, I witnessed no fight. A fight should be fair, with equal chances for both participants, access to the best equipment, the best coaches -- right? I mean, you wouldn't put Usain Bolt against a county runner and then tell them they put up a good fight. There would simply be no fight to be had. The result would already be a foregone conclusion.
Treating brain cancer in the UK is like this. It's the biggest national killer of people under the age of forty, in 2005-2009, only 15 percent of patients survived beyond five years. Just under 10 out of every 100 patients diagnosed is alive 10 years on. In America, it is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in males aged 20-39.
So, how much funding would you reasonably expect brain cancer research to receive? Ten percent? Fifteen percent?
Less than 1 percent of the national spend on cancer research in the UK. Not even deemed important enough for a paltry 1 percent. This lack of funding, coupled with little public awareness of the symptoms and the notorious difficulty in diagnosis, means it is a ticking time bomb.
That's why, this summer, I'll be running a 5k for the Brain Tumour Charity and supporting their HeadSmart campaign, which aims to increase early diagnosis and improve treatment. I'll never be a fabulous athlete -- but I can raise awareness for brain cancer.