Hugh Aggleton

3 min read

Multiple trophy-winning runner Hugh Aggleton, from Hampshire, was 35 years old when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. After Hugh suffered a sudden seizure whilst cycling, an MRI scan revealed he was living with a high-grade glioblastoma (GBM). He underwent multiple surgeries and suffered a stroke due to complications during an operation. He died at the age of 37, in August 2022.

Here is Hugh’s story, as told by his parents, John and Jane Aggleton…

Hugh loved cycling, which is what he was doing when things first went wrong.

It was October 2019, and he was out riding by himself near Winchester. He had a seizure and collapsed on the side of the road. He called us from the ambulance, and we rushed to the Royal Hampshire County Hospital from Cardiff.

Before the seizure Hugh was, and had always been, in perfect physical condition. He was a superb fell runner, he had repeatedly represented Wales as a senior, and had twice won the world-famous Man vs Horse Race. He was at his best whilst running in the mountains.

Other than a few moments of déjà vu and strange auras, Hugh had absolutely no symptoms. The seizure was a complete bolt from the blue.

When we arrived at the hospital, all three of us were told without any warning that he had a golf ball sized brain tumour. It was devastating.

“Hugh had gone from being in the prime of his life, to being told he had 15 months to live.”

Hugh had surgery within weeks. Afterwards, he felt fine within himself, even whilst going through chemotherapy and radiotherapy. He was still cycling and getting out there. We were so nervous for him, but he did it. He just wanted to live life as normally as possible. There was no bucket list, no chasing round the world, he wanted to go back to work, and get on with his life, and that’s just what he did. 

He had a good year before the tumour, a glioblastoma (GBM), reappeared. During 2020 he took part in a clinical trial for a potential immunotherapy treatment, so his medical care moved to UCL London. By 2021, MRI scans showed this his tumour was growing and causing more damage. It was decided he would go back for more surgery in May 2021.

Gradually, his symptoms became more problematic. He began to lose vision off to his right side, and he knew it was becoming unsafe for him to run or cycle. Instead, he spent hours every day on the turbo bike in his garage, so he stayed incredibly fit. It was such a big part of his life and still so important to him. Throughout this time, he continued working from home.

Despite the surgery and further chemotherapy, the tumour returned and kept growing. Further scans showed that it was now encroaching on brain areas that could cause serious complications.

“We were told it was extremely risky to operate, but it seemed like if it wasn’t done, the tumour would hit something horrible and the results would be catastrophic.”

His brother and his wife had just announced that they were having a second baby, and that settled Hugh’s mind. He was determined to see his nephew be born.

The third surgery went ahead, but not without complication.

“He had a severe stroke which left him with huge problems down the right side of his body.”

Immediately after the surgery, he couldn’t walk, and he fought so hard to get this ability back. We can still picture Hugh trying to walk around and around the park opposite our house, desperate and determined to walk normally. He had astonishing willpower. He improved so much, although anyone who looked closely could see that something wasn’t quite right.

Hugh was now spending more and more time with us, but he was also insistent that he should live in his own house by himself as much as possible. His independence was incredibly important to him.

Then things began to decline quite dramatically.

“It was extremely difficult for him, although he never let it overwhelm him, despite knowing what was happening.”

In the three weeks before he died, everything deteriorated so quickly. It was an incredibly distressing time.

When he was diagnosed at 35, Hugh held out hope that he might see his 40th birthday. In the end he got nowhere near. He died in August 2022, at 37. The Welsh Fell Running Association honoured him by creating an annual trophy, as well as flagging races in 2023-24 with his name. These incredibly thoughtful actions made it easier for us to collect money for Brain Tumour Research.

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 the disease since records began in 2002. We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve told people this since Hugh died. It’s so important that everyone knows just how devastating the disease can be, and how quickly your life can fall apart.

John and Jane Aggleton

July 2024

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 since records began in 2002.

Brain Tumour Research is determined to change this.

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Together we will find a cure

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