Bereaved parents from Bedfordshire help with EastEnders’ brain tumour storyline

Yasmin Stannard and Khuram Liaquat met actress Danielle Harold, second from right, who plays Lola. Credit: Brain Tumour Research

Bereaved parents of a young woman have spoken of their "bittersweet" experience helping Eastenders with a hard-hitting brain tumour storyline.

Amani Liaquat from Luton was given her terminal brain tumour diagnosis after collapsing at home on her 22nd birthday in April 2020.

She passed away in February, at the age of 23, five days after she was awarded her Masters degree in the hospital bed set up for her at home.

Her parents Yasmin Stannard and Khuram Liaquat were invited to meet with Danielle Harold, the actress who plays Lola Pearce on the BBC One soap, by Brain Tumour Research.

The charity, along with Macmillan Cancer Support, is working with the programme to ensure its storyline about Lola's brain tumour journey is portrayed as realistically and sensitively as possible.

Tom Parker and Amani Liaquat struck up a friendship after both being diagnosed with the same type of brain tumour. Credit: Brain Tumour Research

The couple also met a team of producers, researchers and scriptwriters who were in the early stages of developing the storyline and wanted to hear about their daughter's journey as a young woman who had glioblastoma (GBM).

After standard care failed to stop the growth of her tumour, Ms Liaquat's family crowdfunded for life-prolonging treatment abroad, raising more than £100,000 in 24 hours.

She also bonded with pop star Tom Parker from The Wanted after they were both diagnosed with the same type of brain tumour.

Her efforts, and those of people she inspired to fundraise, saw almost £60,000 donated to Brain Tumour Research, as well as £40,000 her parents gifted to the charity from the remaining crowdfunding donations not used for her treatment.

Yasmin Stannard and Khuram Liaquat on the set of Eastenders Credit: Brain Tumour Research

Ms Stannard said: "We shared Amani's story with Danielle and the team and tried to convey all the emotions behind our journey as best as we could.

"We were impressed by how dedicated EastEnders was at ensuring it covered the brain tumour storyline sensitively and accurately.

She added: "We arrived at the BBC studios in Elstree with a mixture of emotions. It was exciting to be given the opportunity but we knew we were only in that position due to the loss of our beloved daughter.

"It is bittersweet for us to be involved and watch the episodes without her by our side, but despite it all, we felt privileged to be even a small part of such an important storyline.

“We never wanted to lose a child but if something positive can come from our loss then that helps soothe our wounds a little.”

Yasmin admitted it was difficult at times to watch the show as it reminded them of all the difficult moments they faced. Credit: Brain Tumour Research

Sue Castle-Smith, from Brain Tumour Research, said:Yasmin and Khuram showed great strength while reliving painful memories of Amani’s brain tumour diagnosis and treatment for the benefit of others.

“We’re very grateful to them for all they did and to EastEnders for involving us in this crucial storyline to raise awareness of brain tumours, which kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer.

“Increased awareness is vital as we campaign for the government and larger cancer charities to invest more to improve outcomes for patients and, ultimately, find a cure.”

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