A Bedfordshire family has taken on a Walk of Hope, inspired by their daughter who was diagnosed aged 13 with a brain tumour, to raise funds to help find a cure for the disease.
Caroline Watson of Cranfield, now 26, was diagnosed with a brain tumour on her pituitary gland after her mother finally managed to persuade doctors to take her worrying weight gain and growth seriously.
Along with her parents, Lisa and Mark, and partner Jack Mizen, Caroline walked 10 miles from Flitwick, where her mum and dad live, to the ruins of Houghton House in Ampthill, once a magnificent 17th century mansion, and back.
The event was held on Saturday 26 September, when dozens of similar events took place across the UK for Brain Tumour Research. The charity’s annual Walks of Hope were held virtually this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Initially I wasn’t aware that I had a problem, but Mum knew from when I was nine that something wasn’t right and refused to be fobbed off by GPs who told her to put me on a diet or take me to Weight Watchers.
“By the time Mum managed to get a doctor to take it seriously, I was 13 years old, 5ft 10” tall, had size 9 feet and was wearing a size 16 to 18 in clothes – my body looked swollen. And my face too was swollen with my eyes sunken into my face.”
Caroline was diagnosed with the brain tumour after an MRI scan in 2008 and was put on monthly injections to bring down over-production of a growth hormone. Later that year, the tumour was found to have grown so she underwent surgery in London to remove it.
Sadly, her pituitary gland was damaged and Caroline will have to take medication for the rest of her life to protect her kidneys.
In 2017, Caroline, who has annual scans to monitor her pituitary gland, underwent further surgery because the tumour had regrown. She now suffers with daily headaches. She said:
“Research into brain tumours is so important. We need to find more effective treatments which give patients with this disease better outcomes. Although I am not really a walker, preferring to go to the gym, we really enjoyed our Walk of Hope for Brain Tumour Research.
“It was tough, but really amazing once we hit the 10-mile mark. The thought of everyone who had donated and the kindness and support shown really kept us going.”
Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer. Yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.
Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research, said:
“We are very grateful to Caroline for her support and thank her and her family for joining in our Walks of Hope.”
Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure.
The charity is calling for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.
To donate to Caroline’s fundraising, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/watson-ramblers.