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.
You are forever in our hearts.
Recently published stories
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.Read more
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.Read more
Andrew Atkinson-Whitton loved life. In his 37 years, he touched so many lives with his infectious smile and happy-go lucky nature. Andrew kept smiling even when he was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and had to undergo intensive surgery and treatment but the tumour was too aggressive. He died 20 July 2018, just 14 months after diagnosis, leaving his husband Carl, mum Jill and brother Robert.Read more
Ralph BakerNewspaper 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.Read more
Richard SmithWith 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.” Read more
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.”Read more
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.”Read more
Robin MenaryRobin 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
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.”Read more
Ross PearmanRoss 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.” Read more
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.”Read more
Ruby StinsonRuby 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.” Read more
Ryan TaylorRyan 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.” Read more
Sam O'CallaghanToddler 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.”
Sandy TorranceCommercial 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.”Read more
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.”Read more
Simon TurtonSimon 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.” Read more
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.”Read more
Stella PenalverStella, 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.” Read more
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.”Read more
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.”Read more
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!”Read more
Stephen RealfJournalist 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.” Read more
Steve HolbrookPolice 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.” Read more
Steve LloydHusband, father-of-two and West Ham fan Steve Lloyd passed away in September 2015 seven years after being diagnosed with an aggressive and inoperable glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumour. He had just turned 40. Steve underwent treatment and retired from work in January 2015 in order to spend as much time as possible with his wife Angela and daughters Bethany, 12, and Chloe, 10. They were at his side when he passed away.
“It makes me very angry to think that this horrible cancer affects so many relatively young people like Steve, who wasn’t even 40 when he was diagnosed. It seems crazy to think that so little investment is made in this area. Where are the cures, where are the medical breakthroughs, where are the clinical trials which could have given us precious extra time?” Read more
For 20-year-old Victoria, the hardest part of losing her Dad was the prospect of spending the rest of her life without him. Stuart Neill, aged 56, fell ill while working in Africa and, after being diagnosed with a type of brain tumour known as a metastatic renal cell carcinoma, sadly never returned home. The father-of-three, who had survived renal cancer in 2013, suffered dreadful complications from his brain surgery in Johannesburg and, tragically, never recovered. Now Victoria’s family are struggling not only with the sudden loss of their Dad but also the financial implications of losing their family’s income.
“The burden of Dad’s death is inconceivable. On top of losing a loving father, we had to sell the family home, belongings and tackle the financial impact of his death. He worked so hard so that mum could stay home and take care of us, however, now there is pressure on Mum to find a job so soon after losing him. We still have to be very careful with money, my brothers and I contribute towards helping us all get by.”Read more
Stuart ParkerSadly, Stuart passed away on 10th October 2018. This story was written before his passing but will be updated fully at a time appropriate for his family to whom we send our sincerest condolences.
For police officer Stuart Parker, retirement began in a completely different way to how he had imagined. The 53-year-old was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in December 2017 but despite several disappointments along the way, Stuart is ‘focusing on living’ with his wife Samantha, children and grandchildren.
“The financial implications of Stuart’s diagnosis have been huge. I had to resign from my teaching job to care for Stuart, as such our income halved immediately and we had to cash in our life insurances and downsize our house. We also have to fundraise constantly to enable Stuart to have a good quality of life which has had a huge impact on us; prior to this we were a really private family but now we feel like we’re selling a bit of ourselves to get by.”Read more
Stuart's story was written while he was still with us. Sadly Stuart passed away in December 2018. We will update his story fully at a more suitable time. Our deepest condolences go out to his family at this very sad time.
Father-of-two Stuart was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour at the age of 37. He has undergone surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy but his condition has deteriorated leaving him with mobility problems, trouble with his memory and personality changes.
“It is so hard for the girls too and we have been open with them about their dad’s diagnosis and treatment all along. When we get back from a hospital appointment we sit round the table, look at the scans and discuss what’s happening. While we know things are going to get worse and we have to be realistic, we are also hopeful that, as he is young and otherwise healthy, Stuart will beat the odds.”
Sue ThomasSue was simply the best, so it was so apt that the Tina Turner track was her signature song. She loved life and lived it to the full – she was a wonderful wife and mother, an amazing career woman and a committed Christian, devoted to serving God. Even as the brain tumour took its strangle-hold, she remained determined to give love and encouragement to others, particularly to patients who were going through chemotherapy and radiotherapy just like her.
“Brain tumours take every bit of you, everything shuts down. Doctors don’t prepare you for this, probably because they are trying to protect you, but I think they need to be more up front. The tumour took away Sue’s body and mind and part of her personality. It affected her whole being. She couldn’t talk or even express how she was feeling. In the last few weeks the only way I could tell how Sue was feeling was by looking into her eyes – that was our connection, and how we expressed our love.” Read more
Sunita NathwaniMum-of-three Sunita was diagnosed with a type 2 meningioma brain tumour after an eye test at Specsavers. She underwent surgery and treatment but lost her battle less than two years later. Her husband Upin has been left with a void in his life and is comforted by the pride he feels in their talented and beautiful children.
“I have lost my partner in life and growing old without her is scary; such a big void has been left in my heart and in my life. However Nita has left me three amazing, talented and beautiful kids which I am so proud of. I know she is looking down and thinking the same. I can see her in all of them, so I will never have to look at a picture if I feel sad. I see them and I will smile.” Read more
Susan BlasottaSusan was diagnosed with ‘lesions on the brain’ in November 2010 and died just six weeks later, aged 42. As well as being a very special wife, mother-of-two and daughter, Sue was a committed and integral member of her North London, Roman Catholic parish and was always on hand to support, listen and help people in crisis, even when she had problems of her own.
“It was humbling how Sue faced death with such courage – she was truly amazing. Her most worrying thought was how her family would cope when she had gone – she said: “I have got the easy job, I am going to die – you have got the hard job, carrying on without me.” Read more