In Hope Stories
Just 1% of the national research spend has been allocated to this devastating disease
Former RAF policeman and now an officer with the Avon and Somerset Police, Jim Murray is living with a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive form of brain cancer. He has undergone surgery and is part-way through treatment. Jim and his wife Ally have three sons and recently became grandparents to baby Erin and baby Chester.
“Although this has come as a horrendous shock and the whole family is devastated, we are both naturally very positive people and we are doing our best to remain so. This positive mind-set and our Christian faith is very important to us and we feel the power of prayer was never more tangible than when Jim was in surgery. The arrival of our grandchildren has been a wonderful blessing and while it is so nice to see Jim cuddling these precious babies it is so, so hard for me to think that they are probably not going to know him as they grow up. We have had the most wonderful support from our family and friends which has made this awful prognosis easier to cope with.”
Jim’s wife Ally tells his story …
Jim and I met at school when we were just teenagers. We left our native Somerset and travelled the world with Jim’s job as a policeman in the RAF. There were tours in places including Saudi Arabia, Cyprus and Scotland and, somehow, we found our way back to the south west and settled in Bridgwater.
Along the way we had three sons, Richard, now 28, Callum, 25 and Simon, 21. And more recently we have experienced the wonderful joy which comes with becoming grandparents. Callum and his partner presented us with baby Erin, who was born on 3rd January 2018 and just weeks later we welcomed baby Chester, born to our son Richard and his partner.
The babies have brought us such great joy at what, sadly, has been a time of chaos in our lives. Just weeks prior to becoming a grandfather, Jim was diagnosed with a highly aggressive brain tumour. It breaks my heart to think, as he is sitting cuddling the babies, that he won’t be here for them as they grow up.
Jim’s tumour is a grade four glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) which brings with it the incredibly bleak prognosis of just 12 – 18 months. It seems so unfair to think that Jim, such a kind man who is always helping others, and who has spent the last 18 years as a police officer with Avon and Somerset Police on top of many years’ service with the RAF, should be dealt such a cruel blow.
It was 23rd December 2017 when we first realised Jim wasn’t quite himself. We were out with friends and he seemed reserved and quiet. He surprised us all on Christmas Day when he went to bed in the afternoon and on Boxing Day, as we visited family in Eastbourne, he was wobbling around and complaining of dizziness when we popped to the shops. He was also having some visual disturbances and, by the time we got him to A&E, we were concerned he was having a stroke. He had the usual tests, blood pressure, ECG, but nothing untoward was identified and we were advised to go home and see our GP if his condition worsened.
I drove us back to Somerset, it was the longest journey of my life and I collapsed into bed only to be woken at 1am by Jim who said he knew something was wrong and he needed to go to hospital. We went straight to Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton where we received excellent care. By this stage, Jim was violently sick and had lost his peripheral vision. A specialist team in Bristol viewed new scan images and, just three days after Christmas, we were given the devastating news that Jim had a brain tumour. I don’t think the enormity of the diagnosis hit us straight away. At that point we didn’t know anything more and remained hopeful but there was more bad news and in the days which followed we learned the tumour was malignant, a grade four glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive type of brain cancer. Things couldn’t be any worse.
The prognosis was bleak to say the least and our options were extremely limited. Without any treatment Jim had around three months or he could have a biopsy to determine more or go for surgery which was his best chance of extending his life. We were both in tears of disbelief that things could be so bad.
The growth, an inter-cerebral tumour, had reached 3.5cm x 3.8cm towards the back of the brain and, with surgery followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy, Jim’s life could be extended to 12 or 18 months. We decided that this was a lot better than three months and, on 11th January, the operation went ahead. We knew surgery could leave Jim blind but it was a necessary evil, a trade-off which we had to make. Fortunately the side effects were minimal and, after four weeks to recuperate, Jim started on treatment. Like many people going through this, he was very sick and extremely tired to the extent he was nearly comatose for a week. Jim’s radiotherapy will be followed by six months of chemo.
Although this has come as a horrendous shock and the whole family is devastated, we are both naturally very positive people and we are doing our best to remain so. This positive mind-set and our Christian faith is very important to us and we feel the power of prayer was never more tangible than when Jim was in surgery.
The arrival of our grandchildren has been a wonderful blessing and while it is so nice to see Jim cuddling these precious babies it is so, so hard for me to think that they are probably not going to know him as they grow up.
Jim’s driving license fell victim to his diagnosis so he can no longer drive which he finds very hard. He hopes to get back to work but his eyesight is no longer good enough for him to do any frontline policing. The force has been fantastic to us both, to Jim as an officer and to me as a civilian employee, and we are very grateful for that.
At this, the half-way point in Jim’s chemo, we have to wait and see and it’s a bit like treading water. We will know more once he has his next scan. Throughout it all we have had the most wonderful support from our family and friends which has made this awful prognosis easier to cope with.
Brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age. What’s more, they kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.
Brain Tumour Research is determined to change this.
If you have been inspired by Jim’s story, you may like to make a donation to Brain Tumour Research via JustGiving please quote “Jim Murray”.
Together we will find a cure.
The views or opinions expressed within are not necessarily those of Brain Tumour Research. This content has been shared for information purposes only. Brain Tumour Research does not recommend or endorse any particular treatment. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your doctor or other suitably qualified medical professional. Our member charity brainstrust can provide additional information on treatment options.