London cancer researcher turned patient takes on Brainathlon challenge

Nadège Presneau is taking part in Brainathlon. Image: Brain Tumor Research

Submitted by Brain Tumor Research

A scientist, who has spent much of her life researching cancer, is fundraising for neurological research charities after being diagnosed with a rare cancerous brain tumor.

Nadège Presneau, who lives near Finsbury Park, in London, was diagnosed with a high-grade haemangiopericytoma / solitary fibrous tumor (HPC-SFT) in February 2019 after months of suffering from mood swings, balance issues, severe headaches and seizures.

The 49-year-old, who is a lecturer at the University of Westminster and part of the Cancer Research Group in the school of Life Sciences, said: “It is ironic that I have spent much of my career researching cancer and, in particular , soft tissue tumors. To my absolute horror, I, the researcher had become the patient. ”

She added: “My diagnosis came as a shock, to have cancer after spending all my life studying it is scary and makes it difficult to get away from. If I worked in a retail shop, I could free my mind of it but, being a lecturer and doing cancer research, I just can not. ”

Nadège, originally from Clermont Ferrand in France, underwent a craniotomy followed by a six-week course of high-energy radiation and is now being monitored with six-monthly brain MRIs and annual whole-body PET / CT scans to check for metastatic disease.

Now, determined to do what she can to raise awareness of the need for more funding in research, Nadège has signed up to take part in Brainathlon, a challenge that will see her walk 10 miles, run 15 miles and climb 1.2 miles from April 25 to May 1 to raise funds for three leading neurological research charities: Brain Research UK, Brain Tumor Research and Epilepsy Research UK.

She said: “I’m struggling a bit with my level of energy, I think because of the medication I’m on, but I do like a challenge. My brain tumor is in remission so I’m grateful that I can do the Brainathlon for the good of the community.

“With the recent death of Tom Parker, there’s more attention being paid to glioblastoma brain tumors currently but there also is not enough research on the other types of rare tumors, like mine, which need funding too.

“For me, epilepsy is a consequence of having a brain tumor. I’m doing Brainathlon because I’m affected by both epilepsy and a brain tumor and because it’s a challenge for me as I’m not always 100 per cent fit.

“I’m going to prove to myself that I can do it. Yes, I have a disability and epilepsy now but I can do a Brainathlon. I’m still alive and grateful for that but recognize that we need more treatments for brain tumors in general. ”

She added: “I’m planning to run at least twice in Brainathlon Week. Last weekend I reached 6.2 miles in one go and am trying to build it up so that I’ll be able to do at least seven miles at once to complete my 15 miles of running in two sessions during that week.

“The walking should not be a problem; on that week we have a research away day at our campus on Regents street so I plan to walk the eight miles there from home, so I think I’ll do my 11 miles walking in one day.

“As for the climbing, the university’s science campus has seven flights of stairs, so I’m pretty sure that will be enough for the climbing challenge.”

Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumor Research, said: “This is not the first fundraiser Nadège has taken part in for us but it is her first Brainathlon and we’re really pleased to have her on board. As a cancer researcher, and now sadly a patient, she knows only too well about the lack of funding in brain tumor research.

“We welcome her support as we remain committed to funding more research to speed up new treatments for brain tumor patients and, ultimately, find a cure.”

You can support Nadège’s fundraising here.

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