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In Our Hearts

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

The diagnosis of a brain tumour is devastating for the patient, their family and friends. 

For these people life will never be the same again.

These very brave people will remain in our hearts for ever and it is because of them that we are fighting to find a cure so that no other family should have to suffer in the same way.

We thought of you with love today, but that is nothing new.
We thought about you yesterday, and days before that too.
Anon

You are forever in our hearts.                                                         

Recently published stories

Tom McEntee

Tom McEntee, a banker who lived in Epsom, died just two years after his diagnosis with a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) – a highly aggressive type of tumour – in November 2015, despite enduring several operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. He was 67 and left his wife Anne, their three children Niamh, Owen and Colette, and five grandchildren. Read more

Bob Witherspoon

Diagnosed with a multifocal grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in December 2018, 71-year-old Bob Witherspoon from Whitley Bay lost his life to this aggressive brain tumour just four months later. At his funeral, rather than flowers, his family requested a collection for Brain Tumour Research. Having raised over £700 to help fund research to prevent other families from going through the pain they have suffered, they now want to raise awareness of this cruel disease, by sharing their heart-breaking experience. 

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Katie Dean

Katie Dean was just six years old when she died of a brain tumour. Her diagnosis came after suffering from terrible headaches, which were dismissed as migraines for several months. Though it’s been 16 years since Katie died in July 2003 her dad Scott, an officer with Staffordshire Police, still remembers losing his darling daughter as if it were yesterday. Read more

All stories

Peter Shortman

When Peter Shortman suddenly lost sight in one eye, causing him to crash his lorry, a devastating chain of events was set in motion.

Aged only 54, Peter was diagnosed with a high-grade glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and given only four weeks to live. Happily married for over 20 years and father to two teenagers, Peter never expected his life to turn upside down so drastically.

He had a grade four glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a highly aggressive type of brain tumour, and although the surgeons attempted to remove it, after the operation Peter was told surgery hadn’t been successful. After that devastating news, Peter was sent home to live the rest of his days in comfort but there was nothing comfortable about the months to come.”

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Phil Barnes

Phil was just 63 when he was diagnosed with a grade IV glioblastoma multiforme.  Less than a month later he was dead.  We never had any inkling that his condition was so serious. Read more

Phil Blackmore

When Phil Blackmore was diagnosed with a low-grade brain tumour in April 2016, he refused to let it define him. Phil told only six people about his illness and life went on. His sudden death eight months later, on New Year’s Eve, shook family and friends to the core, but Phil will always be remembered as the sporty and driven person who lived his life to the absolute fullest. 

“I went along with Phil for the results and we were both shocked when the consultant said the words ‘low-grade glioma’. The scans showed a large white mass, the size of my fist, clouding over his brain.”
 
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Phil Coles

Phil lived for seven years following the diagnosis of a brain tumour in 1998.  His illness was a long and difficult emotional journey for his close family - although he remained brave, stoical and accepting of his condition throughout.

“Phil remained very brave and stoical about his illness.  He knew he was going to die and told me that this would be our last Christmas together.”
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Prem Bedi

Husband, father, and grandfather, Prem Bedi was diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumour after his family noticed personality changes. The usually quiet man who loved Bollywood music and was a talented singer, became forgetful which made him frustrated. He passed away just a few months later.

“Prem’s first love was music and I believe we were the first couple to have a live Asian band to play at our wedding. Music was Prem’s life and his passion. He would beat out rhythms on the kitchen table as we sang the old numbers together. I miss him so very much and am so, so lost without him.”
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Premila Patel

Premila Patel died two years after being diagnosed with a tumour in her left frontal lobe. In hindsight, her daughters believe the disease had been there for many years, if not decades, and that Premila’s changing personality may have been a result of it. The 67-year-old left a gift in her will to Brain Tumour Research in the hope that future generations won’t have to endure this devastating disease.

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Rachael Sherlock

Rachael Sherlock was a fun-loving, sociable five-year-old whose life was cruelly cut short by a brain tumour. At such a young age, she underwent an operation, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Rachael died in 1985, leaving her mum Julie, dad Tony, and little sister Hannah; she was never able to meet her youngest siblings David and Rebecca. Then, thirty years on from Rachael’s death, the family faced further devastation, when David was also diagnosed with the disease at the age of 26.

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Ralph Baker

Newspaper printer Ralph Baker suffered excruciating headaches and swelling to his head before his brain tumour was diagnosed in 1954. Surgery was deemed impossible and the prognosis with radiotherapy was very poor so he received no treatment. Within three months of his diagnosis, Ralph lost his life. He was 43. Read more

Rebecca Ann Shone Walker

Rebecca battled five brain tumours and passed away on 25th January 2015. She was 33. When she was diagnosed with her second brain tumour, Rebecca and John, her teenage sweetheart, married quietly on her birthday. The following year she was in remission and they renewed their vows in a celebration of her life. When the devastating news came that her illness was terminal, despite numerous operations and many gruelling months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Rebecca planned her own funeral and even filmed herself giving a reading which was shown at the service.

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Richard Smith

With three grown-up children and his first grandchild to dote on, Richard was only 51 when his health started to fail. Crippling headaches were initially dismissed as tension, but later discovered to be a GBM grade 4.

Richard battled surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy to be able to walk his eldest daughter down the aisle before the GBM grew and he was told that nothing more could be done.  Richard died at home peacefully in November 2013.

“Despite his shock, Rich gladly donated the tumour tissue for research purposes, hoping it might uncover something that would get rid of it.”
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Rob Mottram

Rob was just 24 when he was diagnosed with an inoperable astrocytoma glioma brain tumour. Faced with a bleak prognosis of just 18 months he underwent treatment, including radiotherapy, knowing it was likely to destroy his hopes of ever having children. Dubbed the “miracle man” for outliving expectations, he went on to father a “miracle baby.” As Rob’s condition deteriorated and treatment options ran out, his wife Teresa and their daughter Lily-May, aged two-and-a-half, prayed for a miracle of a different kind. Sadly, Rob passed away on 11th August 2016.                                         

“As Rob finished his radiotherapy, I was working on a maternity ward in the same hospital. On the one hand I was celebrating new life and dreaming of the babies we longed for, while on the other I was facing the very real possibility of losing the man I loved and, with his death, the future we had planned.”

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Robert Fellows

Robert Fellows was a doting dad to his daughter, Laura, and adored his grandson Jacob. His diagnosis with a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in May 2017 came as a devastating shock to his family, as he had seemed so fit and well just weeks beforehand. Sadly, Robert died just six weeks after his diagnosis, aged 67, though his legacy lives on through his family, who will always treasure his memory in their hearts. Read more

Robert Rennicks

After experiencing a sudden seizure at the family home, 56-year-old Robert Rennicks was rushed to hospital with suspected diabetes in May 2016. After weeks of numerous tests and scans, Robert was shocked to learn that the seizure had actually been caused by a brain tumour. Due to its size, location and aggressive nature, removing the tumour wasn’t an option and his only choice was chemotherapy and radiotherapy to help control its growth. Sadly, less than six months after diagnosis, Robert lost the battle and died just before Christmas 2016.

“I had to go back to university for my exams, but Mum assured me that she would call when they knew anything. It was the following week that I got a call from Mum suggesting that it could potentially be quite serious. The results from the scan showed Dad had a mass on his brain and they thought it might be cancer.”

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Robin Menary

Robin was a strong, healthy, happy and very sporty 36 year old, looking forward to the birth of much longed for twins, when, without warning, he was diagnosed with a grade IV glioblastoma brain tumour - one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Only 17 months later, on 24th August 2011, Robin died aged just 38. Read more

Ronnie Hoskins

Doted on by his older siblings, baby Ronnie was just three months old when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He underwent surgery but passed away not long after his first birthday in December 1990. Almost 27 years later he is much-missed and remembered every day by his brothers and sisters including those he never got to meet.

“Mum never got over her loss, she found it hard to say her final goodbyes. The night she passed away in January 2013 of multi-organ failure we all whispered in her ear that she was going to be with Ronnie again. Mum’s funeral brought everything flooding back to me. I can recall clear as day when we gathered to say goodbye to Ronnie, the tiny little coffin, and wondering how to make sense of it all. The lives of us all were changed by our loss at such a young age although it brought us together as a family.”

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Ross Pearman

Ross was diagnosed with an Astrocytoma grade II at the age of 30 and had to give up work because of the many seizures he was experiencing.  He was cared for by his wife, Amanda, a trained nurse, as well as extended family, and kept positive by focusing on his two young children, but, at the age of 35, Ross lost his battle against his tumour, leaving his wife without a husband and two young sons – Phoenix, four, and Xavier, 17 months, without their father.

“It is awful that survival rates have remained unchanged for brain tumours whilst those of other cancers have hugely improved due to far greater levels of funding for research.  If only there could have been effective stabilising treatments available for Ross, let alone a cure.  We need much more research so that the scientists can bring real hope to other families who find themselves cursed like ours with this terrible disease.”
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Rowena Robbins

Rowena was diagnosed with an inoperable brainstem glioma and died 17 months later at the age of four. Only now, nearly 20 years on, and in the hope of helping others, has her mum Elaine found the words to tell her story.

“It is only now, nearly 20 years later, that I am able to talk about what happened to Rowena. It is shocking to learn that there is still no cure and that brain tumours 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.

I have finally found the words to tell Rowena’s story in the hope it will help others. We must find a cure for this disease which has torn my family apart, leaving a crevice which cannot be filled and those of us who remain with a legacy of despair.”

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Ruby Stinson

Ruby was just three years old when she started to trip and stumble. Her difficulties were caused by a brain tumour which was so deep inside her head it was inoperable. She endured radiotherapy and chemotherapy, attending school when she could, and adored her new baby brother, giving him cuddles at any opportunity. Cradled in her mother’s arms, and with her father and siblings at her side, Ruby took her last breaths. She was just five.

“The hospice staff helped to lift Ruby onto my knee as she took her final breaths. To be so close for that last moment was so precious. She looked so peaceful lying in my arms and I just sat there for a long while. While it is seven years since we lost Ruby it still seems like yesterday. It is hard to explain my loss but it feels as if I have a large wall of water behind me, it is tall and stormy and every now and then a few drops of water fall down. If I look back it will all come crashing down and so I focus on what is ahead. If I thought about the enormity of it all it would be too much to bear. We love and miss Ruby and talk about her all the time. There has been great support from friends and people often say how strong I am but I don’t always feel it.”
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Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor’s life was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in September 2013. He underwent surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Unable to work or drive, with the help of his family he tried to make the best of things and even managed to visit his sister Melanie in Dubai. Ryan passed away on 11th March 2017. 

“My life has changed completely. I can no longer work and am dependent on others as I can’t go out on my own. I am fortunate that my sister, mum Sharon, dad John, are all so supportive. I am trying to stay positive but it’s not easy. I have been told I am now on palliative care and I am doing my best to help myself with as healthy a diet and lifestyle as I can manage. I get very tired which is a symptom of my chemo but I do what I can and still enjoy going out for lunch with my mum and keeping busy where I can. I think about how my life might have been all the time; it is particularly hard when I see people doing things that I can no longer do.”
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Sam O'Callaghan

Toddler Sam’s morning vomiting was initially put down to a stomach bug but within weeks an MRI scan revealed he had a brain tumour. He underwent multiple surgeries and gruelling chemotherapy treatment. Accompanied by mum Fiona, father Eoin and brother Luke, Sam received NHS-funded proton beam therapy in America. Despite the efforts of medical teams on both sides of the Atlantic and the love and support of his family, Sam passed away at home in May 2014. He was just five years old.
                   
“We were told our precious toddler had a mass on his brain and needed surgery. It was horrifying. We signed consent forms knowing that Sam might not survive the surgery or could be left with permanent disabilities. If we didn’t sign he would die anyway. There was no choice to make. Sam’s condition was deteriorating so rapidly that within the space of a few days of his first symptoms he could no longer get out of bed.”
 
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Sandy Torrance

Commercial pilot Sandy Torrance, 59, was flown home from work after his co-pilot felt he wasn’t quite himself. Sandy went to A&E with his wife Theresa, and daughter Katherine, to be told that he had a virus and sent home. After becoming increasingly worried and returning to hospital for tests, the family were shocked to discover that Sandy had an aggressive brain tumour. His inoperable glioblastoma multiforme took his life just five weeks later, after so significantly altering his personality that he seemed barely recognisable to family and friends.

“One of the strangest quirks that Sandy developed was the compulsion to draw or write on anything with anything. He would use whatever was to hand - food, lotions, you name it - and draw on hospital tables, windows and walls. A friend once brought in a red marker and, by the end of the visit, there were two grown men looking like they had been involved in a crime scene.”

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Sarah Pestana

Months after the death of her dad to a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), Sarah Pestana, a loving mum-of-two, wife and teacher, was diagnosed with the same brain tumour. For her husband Rowen and their two boys, history was repeating itself and tragically the disease claimed Sarah’s life just two months after her diagnosis.

“I just couldn’t believe this could be happening. We’d witnessed what the disease had done to John and now we had to relive that nightmare all over again. I was determined to beat it for Sarah, we would try the ketogenic diet - anything to stop her going the same way her dad did.”

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Simon Turton

Simon was the youngest of three brothers with a daughter, Livy and a fiancée, Sarah. He was a very popular guy, fit and healthy, and enjoyed many interests over the years including football, rugby, music and motorcycling. He always had a happy-go-lucky outlook on life and many friends to share it with. Then in the summer of 2009, whilst at a wedding, he suffered a seizure affecting the left side of his body. Over the following weeks, this ultimately led to his diagnosis with an anaplastic astrocytoma brain tumour which was inoperable.

“My biggest regret was that I didn’t go straight down to the hospital the previous evening. First thing the following morning, I received another phone call from Sarah, this time saying I needed to come immediately. I dashed down and was shown straight to his bed, just in time to say goodbye.”
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Sophie-Hélène Lewis

Sophie-Hélène was a fun-loving four-year-old who loved to sing and dance. But, just a few weeks after her diagnosis with a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), she couldn’t walk unaided and soon lost her ability to talk. She spent her final days in Rainbows Children’s Hospice, Loughborough, and passed away peacefully in her mum Victoria’s arms, listening to her favourite song ‘Let It Go’, four months after falling ill.

“In shock, horror and disbelief I questioned the medical staff. I didn’t understand how I could possibly tell my beautiful little daughter the news. I was worried that she would stay fully aware of everything around her as she lost control of her body.”

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Stella Penalver

Stella, a mother of two grown-up children, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour in the parietal lobe a couple of months after a fall.  Amazingly, the last 10 months of her life were the happiest she had been since losing her beloved husband in 1997. She passed away quite peacefully with her devoted daughter by her side. 

“I used to tell Mum ‘I love you’ every night in case they were the last words she heard.  Mum’s last 10 months were the happiest Raymond and I had known her have since losing Dad and, to spend them together with her living with me was very special – I couldn’t have loved her more.”
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Stephen Banks

After experiencing numbness in his face, business owner Stephen Banks was told in 2011 that he was living with a low-grade brain tumour. Sadly, the tumour was discovered later to be high-grade and he was told he would need to undergo treatment to control its growth. Adamant in keeping the news to himself and his wife Judith, Stephen continued to keep up appearances and continue as normal, even with a prognosis of just 6 months. Though Stephen passed this mark, he lost his battle in September 2016, leaving behind a devastated Judith to break the news that Stephen had been battling cancer for over five years.

“The prognosis wasn’t good and being told that your husband may have as little as 6 months to live was heart-breaking. I broke down in tears as we were told the news, but I remember Stephen’s only response was “Well that’s a bugger!”. Even being told that they couldn’t remove the tumour and he would need to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy didn’t break him.”

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Stephen Carroll

Steve was a devoted husband to Lina and father of three children - Kevin, James and Sarah - when he died of a brain tumour at the age of 59 in June 2012.

Knowing Steve and having him in our lives, I think we all can take strength from the wit and unwavering determination that he showed everyday whilst fighting this horrible disease…. This Christmas will be so hard without him, but I know there will be lots of great stories and funny memories to share, which will in time give us all the power to get through this difficult time.”

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Stephen Dewar

Stephen was an only son with three sisters Kerry, Carly and Sophie.  Out of the blue, at the age of 25, he had a huge fit on the football field.  He was diagnosed with a grade 2 oligodendroglioma mixed with grade 3 and underwent a craniotomy as well as chemo and radiotherapy.  Despite treatment, two years later, his stunned family found themselves saying goodbye to him.

“By this time I was very worried that Steve might have a brain tumour so I saw our GP.  He made me feel very silly, telling me: “25-year-olds don’t get brain tumours!”

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Stephen Realf

Journalist Maria Lester’s moving account of her brother Stephen’s brain tumour battle was first published in the Mail on Sunday’s YOU magazine*, a year after he passed away in August 2014 at the age of 26. She launched an e-petition which quickly attracted thousands of signatures and became the first to prompt an inquiry by the new House of Commons Petitions Committee.

“Stephen packed more into the six years after his diagnosis than most people do in 86. But he couldn’t keep fighting forever. By the time his 26th birthday came around he was in a wheelchair. He went into a rapid decline, losing his ability to speak, eat or even get out of bed. I don’t like to dwell on those final few weeks, as that’s not the Stephen I remember. To me, he will be forever dashing, forever dignified, forever beaming that beautiful big smile.”
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Steve Holbrook

Police officer and father-of-two Steve Holbrook passed away in November 2016. During the last year of his life, he worked alongside Brain Tumour Research to raise awareness of the disease and the underfunding for research which he felt was the only chance of finding a cure. Steve first became ill during a half marathon. Just months later, following surgery and treatment, he took part in the Milton Keynes half marathon to raise much-needed funds for Brain Tumour Research. His story is told in his own words and was last updated a month before he died.

“I find it terrifying and very hard to come to terms with the fact that no-one can tell me what has caused my tumour. I have a number of relatives who have lived beyond their 80th birthday so would have hoped to live a long life, particularly as I had looked after myself. Was it the fact that I was knocked off my bike as a teenager which caused the tumour? Or maybe something to do with drinking tea or running? The fact that so little is known about this illness which is so devastating, not just for patients but for their families as well, is a great injustice and why more research must be done.”
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