Bedford disability campaigner takes on 10,000 steps challenge

Laura Peggs and her four-wheeled walker
Laura Peggs and her four-wheeled walker

A Bedford woman and disability campaigner, who was left disabled by a brain tumour as a child, is adapting a walking challenge so she can take part using a four-wheeled walker.

Laura Peggs, who lives in Putnoe, and campaigns for disability awareness in the area as part of Bedford Disability Awareness Week (BDAW), was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1988 following problems with coordination, balance and development.

Her symptoms were initially overlooked due to her mother’s ill health and it was not until 10 months after her mum died that Laura was taken to see a doctor and referred for the CT scan which detected her ependymoma.

At the age of 10, she had a shunt fitted to treat hydrocephalus and underwent a craniotomy a week later, followed by radiotherapy.

She was left profoundly deaf in her right ear, moderately deaf in her left ear and completely blind in her right eye.

Laura also had to endure many months of physiotherapy after being left with hemiplegia down her right-hand side and with very little sensation in her right foot.

She also has poor balance, frequent dizzy spells and chronic pain, managed by capsaicin patch treatment and the use of a neuromodulation system.

10,000 Steps a Day in February Challenge

Despite being housebound until recently, and requiring the use of a four-wheeled walker, Laura is now preparing to take part in the Brain Tumour Research charity’s 10,000 Steps a Day In February Challenge.

However, Laura will adapt her challenge so she can complete it over two months.

“I’m feeling quite nervous because I’m seriously out of shape but also quite excited,” she said.

“I became housebound for about 18 months; I was living in a house with two steps leading to it and my balance deteriorated so I couldn’t get my four-wheeled walker in and out.

“I lost muscle tone and put on weight but now I’ve moved into a bungalow, which I love, so I want to try and improve my fitness levels.

“I plan to do 5,000 steps a day for two months and I’m going to give it my best shot. I love animals and I’d really love a hearing dog because I do get quite lonely and isolated, so the walking challenge will help towards that goal too.”

Laura, who also writes a monthly column for the Bedford Independent, also lost a school friend to a brain tumour.

BDAW at The Harpur Centre for Purple Tuesday. Image: James Grugeon

She said: “I had my brain tumour 33 years ago but I still live with the impact of it every day. I also lost a friend to a brain tumour so it’s a cause close to my heart.

“We went to the same primary school but I didn’t know her before I was diagnosed – obviously, after I was, we had that connection. She had a tumour that was fast-growing and passed away when she was 16.

“I didn’t have many friends at school; my life was quite trying and I tended to keep to myself, but I’ve always thought of her and felt guilty of surviving when she didn’t.

“I’m sure she would have had a great life if she’d been able to live it.”

She added: “The most frustrating thing about brain tumours, they have a poor survival rate so I was very lucky to survive but because they’re in your brain and your brain affects all of your body if you survive the tumour you can still be left with disabilities.

“I think the work Brain Tumour Research does is amazing. I just wish brain tumours were better known about and better funded and want to do what I can to help.”

Brain Tumour Research

This year will be the second Brain Tumour Research’s 10,000 Steps a Day in February, after raising £1 million to support vital research and campaigning last year.

The charity is now hoping to smash last year’s amount and is asking people to ‘step up’ to the challenge and make it even bigger and better in 2022.

Participants will receive a free emoji t-shirt and fundraising pack when they receive their first donation and a special medal if they raise £274 or more.

Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “Less than 12% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50% across all cancers and those who do can be left with a wide range of disabilities.

“It’s a terrible disease and we will continue to fund vital research to improve treatment options for brain tumour patients and, ultimately, find a cure. We’re very grateful for Laura’s support and wish her the best of luck completing the challenge.”

The charity says that brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

Read: Man fighting brain tumour “completely besotted” after becoming a first-time dad

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.

The charity is the driving force behind the call for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.

You can support Laura’s fundraising by donating via Facebook Donate and also joining the challenge Facebook group.