In Our Hearts Stories
Less than 20% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years
Patrick John “Chucka” O’Brien
Father-of-four Patrick John O’Brien, known to all as “Chucka”, from Castletown on the Isle of Man, had a car accident in February 2018. The retired quartermaster of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company went to hospital and had an MRI scan which revealed a mass on his brain. The results revealed the grandfather-of-seven, and loving husband to Linda, had a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumour, and he was told he had just 15 months to live. He underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy. In August 2018, a scan showed he had a tumour on his lung, and in November 2019, another scan revealed he had two tumours on his spine. He spent two weeks at a hospice, before he died on 3 February 2020.
His daughter Kerry Humphreys tells his story…
My dad used to drive a blue transit van, and when he drove through the town, he would wave at everyone, like he was the Queen!
In February 2018, Dad was reversing his van at the harbour in Castletown to make room for a lorry, and he hit the white metal bollards. Without knowing, he kept reversing and scraped the whole passenger side of the van.
“He realised that he couldn’t see out of the left side of his eye properly because his peripheral vision had gone.”
Dad went to his GP who thought he had suffered a stroke, so she asked him to go straight to the Accident and Emergency department at Noble’s Hospital in Douglas. After various tests were carried out by doctors and an admission to a ward, he had an MRI scan. The image was sent to The Walton Centre in Liverpool so specialists there could view it. They said that Dad had not had a stroke, but he had a brain tumour which needed to be removed.
At the start of March 2018, Dad was flown over to The Walton Centre in Liverpool for the operation. It went really well, and Dad seemed absolutely fine after that.
“Once the tumour had been removed, you could see all the worry on his face had gone and he seemed relieved it was over.”
We had our dad back, but we didn’t realise how bad it was until his surgeon said his tumour was the size of a tennis ball.
“It was devastating to be told the tumour was a glioblastoma multiforme(GBM), and that Dad would have just 15 months to live if he had treatment.”
Dad opted for treatment, and he underwent three weeks of radiotherapy and chemotherapy at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Liverpool. He dealt with it really well, although he got very tired, slept a lot more, and lost his appetite
Dad then travelled to and from Liverpool every month with my mum, Linda, for him to have an appointment with his doctor, have scans, blood tests and to collect his chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, a routine monthly scan in August 2018 showed he had a tumour on his lung. He had a biopsy which showed as a primary tumour and he would need further radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
In November 2019, Dad’s legs started to give way and he was getting sciatica-like pain. This made him really nervous about going out. He had a routine doctor’s appointment in Liverpool and another MRI scan, but unfortunately it revealed he had two tumours on his spine.
“He was told that there was no point in having chemotherapy from then on as it wouldn’t make any difference. Dad didn’t tell us any of this until January because he said he didn’t want to ruin Christmas.”
By this time, he couldn’t sleep, and he was hallucinating. Dad was normally really laid back, but he became snappy with us, which was out of character. He was in so much pain and said he wanted to go into a hospice to get the pain-relief under control.
“I got into bed with him, and asked him if he was okay, and he started crying. I’d never seen him cry before.”
In mid-January 2020, Dad went to the Hospice Isle of Man which was in Port Erin at the time. He was sedated after being there for a week because he was hallucinating and jumping on the bed, thinking he was back on the boat he used to work on.
Dad was only at the hospice for two weeks before he died on 3 February, the day before Mum’s birthday.
In May 2022, myself, my sister Bev, and our friend Chelsea Gale, 30, walked the 4.25-mile lap of the iconic Southern 100 motorcycle racetrack in Castletown every day to raise money for Brain Tumour Research.
Dad always used to go and watch the Southern 100 so this was something really close to our hearts. Dad is buried at Malew Church, which is known as ‘Church Bends’ on the course, so we got to pass him each time we did a lap.
Brain tumours get such a small amount of government funding, it’s disgraceful, so it’s so important that we could raise as much money as possible to help fight this devastating disease.
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 Chucka’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
Together we will find a cure