Keith Evans

1 min read

Keith from Bulkington in Warwickshire outlived his stark six-month prognosis after being diagnosed with a glioblastoma (GBM) in April 2010. Episodes of collapsing, which were initially thought to be anxiety, turned out to be brain cancer. He was given radiotherapy and placed on life-long chemotherapy. Determined to beat his diagnosis, Keith made changes to his lifestyle and he died five and half years later in October 2015, aged 27.

Here is Keith Junior’s story, as told by his dad Keith Senior… 

In 2010 Little Keith, as he was affectionately known, was an apprentice quantity surveyor working towards a degree at Coventry University. However, the company went into liquidation which threw him on a different career course. 

My wife Lorraine and I were sitting in the living room and Keith came and sat down in front of us after interviewing for a job. When asked how it went, he replied saying he didn’t feel right. He said his head felt like mush and as if he was stammering his words. 

Still sat in the chair in front of us, he asked ‘Mum where are you?’ to which Lorraine replied: ‘I’m here, in front of you’. 

As he tried to stand, he collapsed. Terrified, we called 999 where the hospital tests concluded Keith could have suffered a panic attack. It felt odd as there was no history of anxiety. 

The weeks that followed saw more of these episodes with Keith complaining of headaches. After multiple occasions where we called 999 we were told the same thing and Keith was given tools to manage anxiety including breathing into a paper bag. 

The symptoms seemed subtle over a period of time; we were never prepared for the news of it being grade 4 brain cancer. 

Doctors said Keith was fine to go on a family holiday and we enjoyed a trip to Portugal for Lorraine’s 50th. When we got back, we spent months going back and forth to hospital, each time to be told there was nothing neurologically abnormal. The symptoms were similar to other conditions. 

“Keith was 21 at the time and we felt as if we were being paranoid. Like neurotic parents.” 

Eventually we went to our GP in Bedworth and explained the situation. Within 24 hours Keith was given a scan and we were met by a doctor who asked if we would mind going to the family room. We knew the news was going to be life-changing. 

‘With this kind of tumour’ is how the doctor started. The shock of hearing those words was unbelievable. 

Results showed several lesions on Keith’s brain, all inoperable due to where they were growing, likely to be a glioblastoma (GBM). The doctor went on to explain that at the time only 4% of people with a GBM live for more than five years. Today I understand that 5%of patients survive more than five years. The reason why some people survive so much longer than others is not yet clear. 

Keith was given six months. 

We asked about proton therapy but were told it wouldn’t work for Keith’s cancer and that we were already on the gold-star treatment according to the NHS. 

Life changed dramatically. Keith, a fit and healthy twenty something who used to play weekly football, was catapulted into a world of radiotherapy and life-long chemotherapy. He tolerated the treatment well and completely changed his lifestyle, looking at alternative therapies including medicinal cannabis which he swore by. 

Keith gave himself every opportunity to live for as long as possible. 

He married his long-term partner Harriet and through IVF they had their son Joel. He started cycling as his driving licence was taken away from him due to the seizures caused by the cancer. This spurred him on to want to do more to help others facing the disease. 

He read Lance Armstrong’s book and felt inspired to go on a ride aside from his usual commute. Keith developed a motivation to beat the cancer. He went from never cycling, to joining a cycling club called The Sunday Gang and became a huge personality in the cycling world. Keith’s story even forged a friendship with members of his healthcare team who have supported our annual cycling events. 

The cycling community rallied around Keith, going along with his fundraising ideas which led to Ride on Keith, an annual cycle 25, 55 or children’s five-mile event in around Coventry. 

Keith was a powerhouse in the face of brain cancer completing epic cycle challenges including 140 miles coast to coast, 275 miles from London to Paris, and Land’s End to John O’Groats covering 1,000 miles over a ten-day period - all during treatment. 

In January 2015, he came off his bike after having a seizure. Scans showed that despite treatment the tumour was growing. His mobility steadily declined and eventually he needed a wheelchair. 

Because he had passed the five-year benchmark, his medical team tried another blast of radiotherapy but that didn’t do anything. In September he went to hospital, knowing it was the end. 

From his diagnosis in 2010 to his death in 2015 he helped to raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity, including Brain Tumour Research. He was committed to ensuring there was attention placed on the need for research. Always being the first to sign up for various events and arduous cycles. He wanted to help patients and their families going through this horrendous diagnosis. 

“What he achieved in those five and half years was astonishing.” 

At the end of his life, he couldn’t walk or eat a meal. Keith died in October 2015, aged 27, two days before Joel’s second birthday. 

Over a decade, we’ve helped to raise the profile of brain tumours and worked towards driving more funding to find a cure for the disease, with Little Keith at the helm of the events when he was alive. When he died, we used the events as a way to celebrate his life and remember the fighting character he was. 

This year, 10 June 2023 will see our farewell Ride on Keith cycle. Although we know there is still more work to do, we will look to support Brain Tumour Research in other ways. 

It’s opened up conversations and we’ve met people who have their own brain tumour story to tell, often saying it came out of the blue. 

Through sharing Keith’s story and fundraising to help fund vital research, we hope to highlight that the path to diagnosis isn’t always simple. If we can shed more light on the disease, we can hopefully understand its complexity and have a better outcome for patients and their families. 

Keith Evans (Big Keith)
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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Together we will find a cure.

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