Andrea Key

3 min read

Andrea was a fit and healthy, single mum of two until she became ill and was diagnosed with a glioblastoma (GBM). She survived seven months, but her legacy continues as our Member Charity Yorkshire’s Brain Tumour Charity, originally known as Andrea’s Gift.

Here is Andrea’s story, as told by her friend and work colleague, Carol …

Andrea was very fit and healthy – she loved fell-walking and dancing, especially jive.

I was working with Andrea at Emerald Group Publishing and sharing an office back in 2001 when she started experiencing “weird” headaches, as well as memory loss and mood swings. As we were both 41, we wondered whether it was due to hormones and the perimenopause.

Always the consummate professional, it was very strange when Andrea failed to turn up one morning on Emerald’s stand at a conference in Boston, USA. We thought she might have been out on the tiles the night before, but she assured us this was not the case and that she hadn’t been drinking, let alone even been out.

Back in Yorkshire, there were occasions when Andrea called in sick, which again was very uncharacteristic. Over a six-week period she struggled even to get out of bed and had a number of appointments at the GP surgery. Andrea’s symptoms were put down to a trapped nerve or sinuses. She was given different medications but it was only when Andrea went to see a physiotherapist that everything started to change. The physio was adamant Andrea had pressure in her head and should go immediately to hospital.

However, Andrea was still unable to get anyone to take her symptoms seriously and I am convinced she knew by then that something was very wrong. Eventually, she paid to see a neuro consultant privately in Bradford. By this stage Andrea was incapacitated by severe headaches and vomiting.

The doctor came out into the waiting room to see Andrea vomiting into a bowl and immediately ordered her to go straight to the Bradford Royal Infirmary for a CT scan. An hour afterwards, the same doctor revealed to Andrea she had a very aggressive brain tumour and that she was being transferred to Leeds General Infirmary.

Andrea was checked in and started on steroids immediately which quickly helped to make her feel better as it reduced the swelling.

She underwent surgery to debulk the tumour under neurosurgeon Paul Chumas and felt better again. Paul came to her bedside to tell her she had a glioblastoma (GBM) and that she wasn’t going to survive this. He gave her a prognosis of between three and nine months.

“Andrea had radiotherapy and was then told to go home and enjoy life. Chemotherapy in the form of temozolomide was in its infancy at that time, but Andrea was told she wasn’t going to be given any more treatment.”

It was after finishing radiotherapy that Andrea had her first seizure – around Christmas-time 2001. These became more and more frequent as time went on. Andrea was deteriorating, but had her children Jen and Jonathan, who were both young teenagers, at home. With an upstairs bedroom and bathroom, Andrea bluntly refused to have a commode downstairs, insisting on going upstairs every time she needed the toilet, which she minimised by drinking less.

Friends and family rallied round to care for Andrea, but she never lost her personality. Her dignity, bravery and strength inspired us all.

Towards the end of March 2002, Andrea was admitted into a hospice. It gave her a sense of independence she hadn’t been able to enjoy at home and she enjoyed the most wonderful support and care from the staff before she died peacefully there on 16 May 2002.

“Before Andrea became too ill, I had the idea that we could do some fundraising at Emerald Group Publishing to help her get away on a well-deserved holiday. But when I mooted this to Andrea, she was adamant that the money needed to be donated to charity as she had seen for herself how there was such a lack of support for brain tumour patients, let alone effective treatments.”

I was unable to find any charities with websites – the internet was in its infancy. I did find Brain Tumour UK (which has since folded) in the telephone directory yellow pages, but no one got back to me.

It was around that time that I met Sue Farrington Smith (who had set up Ali’s Dream with her sister Julie and later co-founded Brain Tumour Research) at a conference and decided to set up Yorkshire’s first brain tumour charity with Paul Chumas, Andrea’s neurosurgeon.

Andrea’s Gift was born in 2003 with help from Sue and Julie. I was also so grateful for amazing support from Emerald Group Publishing who gave me the platform for the website and were so helpful with fundraising. I had a target to raise £10,000 in the first year, but we succeeded in raising £20,000 which led to the charity being registered with the Charities’ Commission.

Andrea’s Gift is now known as Yorkshire’s Brain Tumour Charity (a Member Charity of Brain Tumour Research) and has raised almost £5 million over the years, supporting thousands of patients and carers across the region through counselling, grants and a range of support groups, while funding vital Yorkshire-based research to find better treatments and a cure.

Carol Robertson

June 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.

If you have been touched by Andrea’s story, you may like to make a donation via or leave a gift in your will via .Together we will find a cure.

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