Laura Nuttall says she and her family are confident she'll defy the odds, and live a long life despite being diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme
Credit: Go Fund Me

Like any other 19-year-old college freshman, Laura Nuttall expected to spend the fall of 2018 in a classroom, settling in at her new school. Instead, she underwent surgery and chemotherapy for terminal brain cancer.

“I wasn’t expecting this. I was at university, just moved in. I was quite excited about life and getting to live by myself,” Laura tells PEOPLE of starting her first semester at Kings College London in September.

“Then I was told that I had brain tumors. That’s not something you’re really prepared to deal with at such a young age. Being told your life is going to get cut short, it’s been emotionally draining for me and my family as well.”

Laura says she began having headaches just a few weeks into the semester, but didn’t think much of it.

Credit: Courtesy Nicola Nuttall

“I thought it was something minor. I just started getting headaches for two weeks. I thought it was just a common cold, or a bout of headaches,” she says.

With that, Laura was surprised when a routine eye exam found significant pressure behind her eyes. Shortly after that, Laura became extremely sick, vomiting repeatedly.

She was taken to a hospital where doctors found at least six brain tumors and diagnosed her with glioblastoma multiforme, a brain tumor that usually leads to death within 24 months after diagnosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Credit: Courtesy Nicola Nuttall

“It was such a massive shock for everybody because Laura was on a path to finish her degree,” Laura’s mother, Nicola Nuttall, 48, tells PEOPLE.

“She’d really only just left so the last thing we expected is that she’d be coming home and things would change so completely … It’s deeply affected everybody. We’re all reeling from it.”

Laura left school after the diagnosis and underwent brain surgery as well as radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Now, the family is working to raise money to pay for a special treatment to save Laura’s life. They’ve set up a GoFundMe page where they’ve raised close to $40,000.

From left: Nicola, Laura, Gracie and Mark Nuttall
| Credit: Courtesy Nicola Nuttall

Although they don’t know how long Laura will live, Nicola says she, her husband Mark, 48, and 17-year-old daughter Gracie, are hopeful Laura will beat the odds.

“We’ll do whatever we possibly can to keep Laura with us for as long as possible. We’re optimistic. I have absolute confidence that she’s going to be the one person that proves everybody wrong and goes on to live a long life. I’m convinced of it.”