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Press release

Less than 20% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years

Five-year-old cancer girl back to school after year of chemotherapy

Five-year-old cancer girl back to school after year of chemotherapy

A year to the day after suffering a relapse and at the start of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a five-year-old from Eston, Middlesbrough started back at school following continued treatment for a brain tumour. Every day at least 12 children and young people get the news they have cancer.

Last Friday, Darcyana Aspery-Walsh, who started Year 1 at Whale Hill Primary School on Tuesday 4th September, rang the bell at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle to signal the completion of her second chemotherapy treatment. Now she is on three-monthly MRI scans to check for regrowth.

Amid huge excitement to be back with her friends and see her teachers again after the long summer break, Darcyana couldn’t wait to put on her uniform and skip back into school and a more normal routine.

For the last year, Darcyana was only able to attend school four days a week because every Friday she had to go to the RVI for chemotherapy. Since she was diagnosed with a brain tumour aged just 21 months, or “Timmy” as she calls the tumour, Darcyana has endured brain surgery and multiple procedures, as well as earlier chemotherapy treatment after it was discovered that Timmy was growing again. She has also experienced the loss of many young friends made on her hospital ward who sadly didn’t survive.

Added to this, Darcyana’s mum, Debbie Aspery, 30, was herself diagnosed with incurable cancer in 2016, having found a lump in her breast. This turned out to be a secondary cancer – Debbie was found already to have cancer in her bones, which has since spread to her left lung, pelvic area and ovaries.

Debbie explained: “I always believed lightning couldn’t strike twice, but it did with our family. Last year I was going to the RVI for chemo on Tuesdays and Darcyana was there on Fridays – we always seemed to be going backwards and forwards to hospital appointments.

“Now that Darcyana has completed her second chemotherapy treatment and I am now on a different kind of chemo administered every three weeks (along with regular blood transfusions to manage progressive anaemia), it feels like our safety blanket has been taken away. Going to hospital and seeing the doctors and nurses, as well as other patients and parents of patients, gives you a fabulous support network. Having said that, at least we don’t have to budget in quite the same way for parking, petrol and eating at the hospital!

“I am so thankful to have Darcyana’s dad Gareth. He is my absolute rock, completely devoted to caring for us both. Gareth does so much for Darcyana and me at home, as well as driving us to hospital and sitting with us during appointments or while we have our treatment.

“My attitude is that we have to stay positive, especially for Darcyana. She has gone through so much already and we don’t know what the future holds. All we can do is everything we can to make her life as happy as possible – she is our little princess, who loves Barbie, Paw Patrol and playing on her iPad. She is a typical five-year-old and every day she makes us so happy and proud to be her parents.

“Life is now about waking up on a morning and being grateful that we are all still here. We take each day as it comes and make the most of every second we spend together as a family.” 

Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under the age of 40, yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

Sue Farrington Smith, Chief Executive of the Brain Tumour Research charity, said: “For too long, brain tumours have been a neglected cancer and stories like Darcyana’s remind us we cannot allow this desperate situation to continue. Sadly, less than 20% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50% across all cancers.

Brain Tumour Research is funding dedicated UK Centres of Excellence where scientists are focused on improving outcomes for patients and, ultimately, finding a cure.”

If you have been inspired by Darcyana’s story you may like to make a donation via


For further information, please contact:
Liz Fussey at the Brain Tumour Research charity on 07811 068357 or


Notes to Editors

Brain Tumour Research is the only national charity in the UK dedicated to raising funds for continuous and sustainable scientific research into brain tumours, and we are a leading voice calling for greater support and action for research into what scientists are calling the last battleground against cancer.

We are building a network of experts in sustainable research at dedicated Centres of Excellence whilst influencing the Government and larger cancer charities to invest more nationally.

We welcome recent funding announcements for research into brain tumours from the UK Government and Cancer Research UK – £65 million pledged over the next five years. However, this potential funding of £13 million a year comes with a catch – money will only be granted to quality research proposals and, due to the historic lack of investment, there may not be enough of these applications that qualify for grants from this pot.

We want research funding parity with breast cancer and leukaemia. We are calling for a £30-35 million investment every year for research into brain tumours in order to fund the basic research groundwork needed to accelerate the translation from laboratory discoveries into clinical trials and fast-track new therapies for this devastating disease.

The Brain Tumour Research charity is a powerful campaigning organisation and represents the voice of the brain tumour community across the UK. We helped establish and provide the ongoing Secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Brain Tumours (APPGBT). We are supporting the crucial APPGBT 2018 Inquiry into the economic and social impacts of brain tumours and will publish their report in the autumn. We are also a key influencer in the development strategy for the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission. 

Key statistics on brain tumours:

  • Brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age
  • Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer
  • Just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours
  • In the UK, 16,000 people each year are diagnosed with a brain tumour
  • Brain tumours kill more children than leukaemia
  • Brain tumours kill more men under 45 than prostate cancer
  • Brain tumours kill more women under 35 than breast cancer
  • Less than 20% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50% across all cancers

Please quote Brain Tumour Research as the source when using this information. Additional facts and statistics are available from our website. We can also provide case studies and research expertise for the media.