Brain tumour patient takes on month-long challenge

2 min read

An Oxfordshire woman is participating in a walking challenge four decades after being diagnosed with a brain tumour and having to relearn how to walk and talk.  

Kristel O’Rourke was just four years old when her mum noticed her right foot turning inwards when she walked. Doctors dismissed it and said “she could be ambidextrous” when she switched from using her right hand to her left.   

Following a health check before she was due to start primary school in 1983, Kristel was sent to hospital after a nurse found a shadow behind her eye and was subsequently diagnosed with a low-grade astrocytoma. 

Life-saving surgery followed, yet despite a decade of stable scans and being given the all clear, Kristel, now 45, was left with long-term damage including limited mobility on one side and no peripheral vision. 

She is now bravely taking on our Run 15 in February challenge and shared her experience recently on BBC Radio Oxford to help raise awareness of brain tumours. 

Kristel, a receptionist at an opticians, told them: “I fall over a lot. The balance on my right side is badly affected. I’ve got muscle wastage down that entire side, no peripheral vision in my right eye, and my right arm and leg are slightly smaller than on the left. I can walk and use my hands but I haven’t got the dexterity on the right side. 

“The challenge is called Run 15 but I can’t run. So I am taking a different route. I’ll be on my exercise bike at home and each week in Feb I’ll be doing 15k on the bike. Last night I did 6k and then a Zumba class!” 

Kristel is driven by the lack of investment – just 1% of national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumour research since records began in 2002 – and the need for better treatments.  

She said: “Decades later, there is still a lack of treatment options for brain tumour patient’s when compared with some other cancers. I was lucky. I've lived a normal life after my brain tumour. Others don't get these chances. Any donations towards research to eradicate this indiscriminate disease will be a huge help.” 

To donate to Brain Tumour Research via Kristel’s fundraiser, please visit:

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