Stewart Blair

3 min read

Stewart Blair, 51, from Boat of Garten in the Scottish Highlands, suffered an unexpected seizure in 2013. He had two more episodes in quick succession before having an MRI scan which revealed he had an oligodendroglioma. Surgeons removed the majority of it and no further treatment was needed. Stewart had clear checkup scans for eight years but in 2021 a scan showed the tumour had grown back. He completed six weeks of radiotherapy and 15 months of chemotherapy in March 2022 and all of his MRI scans since then have been stable. 

Stewart’s wife Jo tells his story…

During the school holiday in 2013, Stewart suddenly had a seizure at night. It was a real shock and I thought it must be epilepsy.

An ambulance took him to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness but during the journey he had another seizure. Stewart suffered a third seizure on arrival so he was taken for an MRI scan straight away.

After, we were told the scan had found a large tumour on the left-hand side at the front of his brain. They said they couldn’t tell us any more than that; we would have to wait until we went to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

“We had to wait for two weeks which was scary, but Stewart is very stoic and said we’ll just have to see what it is. He’s always had headaches and he self-medicated with paracetamol. I did think it was abnormal the amount he was taking but it now made sense.”

Stewart had said he was fine about having brain surgery as long as it wasn’t an awake craniotomy but the consultant advised he should have one so he went with it.

He underwent surgery at Aberdeen in November 2013. It went really well and they managed to remove 80% of it. Removing more would have risked damaging his brain.

“We were told the tumour was an oligodendroglioma and it was cancerous so we always knew it would come back at some point.”

Stewart spent a week in intensive care before coming home.

“Even though he looked OK, I could see Stewart was not the same after surgery. His memory was affected; I would come home after work and he would be sat watching TV with three cups of tea next to him because he’d forgotten them.”

His sense of humour also disappeared, which was really hard because that was such a part of him. Three of our four children were doing exams at the time too so it was a very difficult period for everyone.

“It took two years of recovery before I recognised the Stewart I knew, and it was so lovely when his sense of humour returned.”

Stewart didn’t need to have any treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy; he was doing really well and working in job he loved, a lecturer in wildlife management at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Inverness. He had an MRI scan every six months throughout the years and they were all fine but a scan in January 2021 showed the tumour was growing again.

“I’d got used to being told everything was fine after each scan so to get this news was a bit of a shock, even though I knew this day would come. We had just pushed it away and got on with our lives.”

Stewart’s consultant said he wanted to hit the tumour as hard as possible. Stewart had six weeks of radiotherapy and 15 months of chemotherapy. He was amazing, he just got on with it. He continued working through most of the treatment, but eventually he got too tired and had to stop for six months.

The treatment finished in March 2022; since then, Stewart has had MRI scans every six months. His most recent one was three weeks ago and it was stable so things are looking good at the moment.

“We’re very aware it will grow back but life is for living so we both just want to go for it and enjoy it. We don’t want to dwell on things too much because that’s a waste of time.”

Stewart used to like fishing when he was a child so he took it up again. He really enjoys it and it’s been good for him.

The situation for brain tumours is really bad. There is so little funding from the government which means there is so little research, it’s shocking. The treatments are aggressive and only prolong life, there is no cure.

I’ve always written songs and made music so I have released my first ever album, a mix of folk and country - with a Scottish twist. You can download the album online and the proceeds go to Brain Tumour Research.

I’m doing this not just for Stewart but for everyone who has been affected by this devastating disease.

Jo Blair
June 2023

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.

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