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In Our Hearts Stories

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

Gwilym Llewellyn

Loving husband and father-of-three Gwilym Llewellyn from Penpedairheol in South Wales attributed his migraines to finishing a course of medication for a broken femur. After three months of hospital trips and GP appointments, Gwilym had a seizure and was rushed to hospital where a scan revealed he had a grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma. Surgeons removed most of the tumour, however an infection from his surgery scar spread throughout his body including an intracerebral infection. Fluid on his brain continued to build causing him to lose his sight and he also developed colitis. Doctors deemed him too weak for treatment and nine weeks after he was rushed to hospital, Gwilym died on 16 May 2021 with his beloved wife and mother by his side.

Here is his story, as told by his widow, Cerian…

Gwilym and I met when he was in his last year of university studying Mining Engineering. We were together 32 years, married for nearly 27. We enjoyed each other’s company; he was my soul mate. I love and miss him so much.

He was the best father and so proud of our three girls, Shannon who is 25, Jess, 19, and Liv, 14.

As well as being a loving husband and father, Gwil had two other passions: cycling and a love of pink cycling gear. He was part of a few different cycling clubs and as a family, we often went on bike rides and joined him in Majorca during his overseas cycling trips.

At the end of August 2020, he broke his femur in a road bike accident and had been getting migraines, which he never usually suffered from. We put it down to side effects of coming off his strong pain killers from his broken femur.

In December he went to a local optician for an eye test and they described seeing a ‘beauty spot’ behind his eye. We didn’t want to wait so we went private and saw a consultant at Spire Hospital in Cardiff, who said he had no concerns and told him to come back in a year unless anything changed.

On Christmas Eve, Gwilym had to have another operation for his broken femur which he’d been in agony with due to a wrong sized pin having been originally put in. On Christmas night he had a continuous headache and was being violently sick. I took him to Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, and unfortunately because of COVID-19, he had to go in on his own. All they did was give him fluid and sent him home and all throughout January we thought he was suffering with dehydration.

In February 2021 he went to the GP because he was getting no better. On two separate occasions Gwilym was mid-diagnosed, on the first visit we asked for a CT scan but the doctor said to do blood tests which came back ‘normal’. On the second visit he was given tablets for muscular pain.

“On Mother’s Day, Gwilym had a seizure and was taken back to Prince Charles Hospital. A scan confirmed there was a mass on his frontal lobe.”

He was transferred to Heath Hospital in Cardiff where he had an emergency operation to fit a drain to relieve the pressure of fluid on his brain. A week later, surgeons removed most of his tumour, which they diagnosed as a grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma and as far as the operation was concerned, his consultant said it went well.

“Despite the consultant saying the operation went well, Gwilym had so many infections. He couldn’t move the left side of his body, he developed colitis and had a seizure that left him in a coma.”

The gradual build-up of fluid caused pressure on his brain which caused loss of sight loss and short-term memory, as well as seizures. His final seizure happened when he was in a coma.

During the last two weeks of his life, I was able to visit him in person, as COVID-19 restrictions eased.

He was poorly and had many operations during the nine weeks. He died on 16 May 2021, his mother and me by his side holding his hand.

I still can’t understand how this has happened to someone so fit and healthy.

This has devastated our family. Life will never be the same again.

This will be our first Christmas without Gwil. Since he died, we’ve raised more than £5,000 for Brain Tumour Research. We need more research into brain tumours to find out more about them and to discover a cure. We did the Cycle 274 Miles in August challenge which is something we’ll do every year as a family.

This month we’re going on a festive family bike-ride as part of Wear A Christmas Hat Day and hope to raise even more money and we’ll end in Gwil’s favourite pub with his favourite pint whilst wearing his favourite colour, pink.


Cerian Llewellyn
December 2021

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 touched by Gwilym’s story, you may like to make a donation via www.braintumourresearch.org/donate or leave a gift in your will via www.braintumourresearch.org/legacy

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