Debbie Goodwin

2 min read

Debbie Goodwin, of Stockport, Greater Manchester, was turned away by her GP when she first sought help for symptoms, including headaches and dizziness, in February 2022. Her glioblastoma (GBM) diagnosis came six months later after she was hospitalised following a fall from a suspected stroke. The mum-of-three underwent surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy but died in a nursing home in February 2023. She was 61 years old.

Here is Debbie’s story, as told by her son Jack …

Mum was brilliant, she was always so kind, and I often leant on her for emotional support. She had her troubles with alcohol, which made things complicated sometimes, but she was always there for me – so I was for her when she needed me the most.

My parents divorced in 2015, my brother lives abroad and my sister was distant to the family at the time, so, following Mum’s diagnosis in August 2022, it fell to me to travel from my home in Milton Keynes to be with her in Stockport regularly. It wasn’t easy because my daughter was just one-and-a-half and so I missed some key milestones, but being with Mum when she died was a privilege and I’m glad I was there for her.

“She went to the doctor complaining of headaches and dizziness in February 2022, but was dismissed and told to come back when she was sober.”

I only found this out after her diagnosis six months later. I was at work at the time and my uncle called to tell me my mum, his sister, was in Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, after having a fall at home. He said she’d had a suspected stroke but, after her scans were reviewed a week later, we were given the news she had a glioblastoma (GBM). Unfortunately, that’s where our brain tumour journey began.

“Mum underwent surgery a couple of weeks later and it was then we learned she had developed several new tumours.”

Afterwards, we were told the cancer had spread so much it could affect any of her cognitive and physical abilities, making it unclear how her symptoms would progress. She went on to have radiotherapy and oral chemotherapy but, unfortunately, they didn’t slow down the tumour’s rapid growth. She fell ill regularly, and her hair fell out too which knocked her confidence a lot. It was only after the chemo that Mum gave up drinking, finding that she just didn’t want to do it anymore.

I didn’t know anything about brain tumours before Mum’s diagnosis and I didn’t understand the severity of hers until around October. By then Mum was heavily medicated, largely for pain relief, and suffering from constant headaches, balance problems and weight gain because of the steroids she was on. Her medication became an ongoing battle, as she refused to stop drinking initially, complicating the treatment. Sadly, her symptoms kept getting worse and I kept asking how long she had left.

“It felt like the doctors were doing nothing and I felt so helpless.”

Accepting that nothing could be done was hard, when online all I read about were advances in technologies and novel treatments. You assume if someone you love gets a brain tumour, they’ll be given the best possible care, but it didn’t feel like that was the case. In November, Mum was falling over so much that she was covered in cuts and bruises.

“I’d go and see her and find two days’ worth of tablets in front of her, which was a real concern because she’d been warned she’d pass away if she didn’t take her medication.”

Eventually, a care team was put in place to visit Mum three times a day. She also had an emergency button installed in her home and was given a wheelchair which she refused to use, preferring to not give up just yet and shuffle around instead. By December, Mum became slow and confused and I was told she might not make it to Christmas. In fact she did but she was only half there – it was a very sombre affair knowing it would be our last together.  

“Between Christmas and New Year, Mum’s medical team said she needed to go into a nursing home.”

I helped her with the move and facilitated administrative tasks involving her home, car, and finances, which caused a great deal of friction within the family. Mum was in the care home for about six weeks before passing away. The staff there were brilliant but she deteriorated so quickly. I visited her most days and stayed in contact with the staff when I didn’t, who I’d asked to tell me when I needed to stay. In the last few weeks of Mum’s life, she wasn’t able to talk and couldn’t feed properly. My brother came over from Spain to say his goodbyes and my sister and I took it in turns to be by her side.

We were told the time was coming as Mum started to show signs of letting go. My sister found it difficult that night and had to leave, but I stayed, watching over her and holding her hand, until she passed away at about 2.30am. I was alone with her when she did, and for several hours after, waiting for the doctors the next morning. I phoned to break the news to family members and waited for her death to be formally recorded. It was all so surreal.

“Seeing Mum like that wasn’t nice and thinking about it still keeps me awake some nights.”

I started running about a month or so after Mum’s death as a way of dealing with my grief and family tensions that developed through Mum’s illness, which I really struggled with. I wanted to channel my energy into something good, and I found out about Brain Tumour Research. When I saw that the charity was looking to recruit a new Trustee after she passed, I decided to get in touch.

The skills I have are what the charity was looking for and I am now proud to say I am a Brain Tumour Research Trustee – that is my mum’s legacy. As part of this, and to help raise awareness, I’m looking to run 15 marathons next year to mark the charity’s 15th anniversary. I will also be running 2,740km throughout the year to represent the £2,740 it costs to fund a day of research into this deadly and underfunded disease at any of the charity’s four Centres of Excellence. Mum loved running and must have taken part in more than 50 races for charity, so it’s great to know that I’m continuing in her footsteps by raising money and awareness in this way.

“I’m really excited about it and would love to raise enough money to fund at least a couple of days research in Mum’s name.”

Jack Goodwin
November 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 since records began in 2002.

Brain Tumour Research is determined to change this.

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