Sam Browne

3 min read

Sam Browne, a financial planner from Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, was diagnosed with an inoperable grade 2 astrocytoma after suffering a seizure in March 2019. He underwent a biopsy followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy but, in July 2023, he learned his tumour had developed to a grade 4. He died less than two months later, aged 28.

Here is Sam’s story, as told by his mum Irene …

Sam lived his life to the full and was always out and about. He was a real people person and the life and soul of everywhere he went.

“I miss him terribly.”

The first sign that anything was wrong came in March 2019 when Sam had a massive seizure whilst working at ASOS, in Camden. He was taken to the Royal Free Hospital, in Hampstead, where they did some scans and transferred him to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN), in Queen Square. It was there that he had a biopsy and was diagnosed with an inoperable grade 2 astrocytoma.

He was put in touch with the oncology team at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) which arranged for him to have three weeks of radiotherapy in the summer before starting a 12-month course of chemotherapy in September. When COVID-19 first hit in March 2020, Sam’s chemo drugs were couriered but after a while we were asked to travel to London for them every three weeks.

“It was a bizarre time because nobody was around so the streets were completely deserted.”

Sam went through a lot with his treatment but he was a fighter and was always more concerned about me than himself. Every day he told me how sorry he was for everything he was putting me through. Of course I didn’t care about that and was with him at every one of his appointments. I would go to work, rush out with him and, if he was feeling up to it, we’d go for a meal after.

“When Sam’s steroids kicked in during chemo, he was so hungry that I couldn’t feed him enough.”

At that point, his scans were taking place every three months and we were told his tumour was under control so we just carried on. Sam lived his life and had an absolute blast doing it. He even travelled to South America last year and spent at least four weeks in Peru, visiting the likes of Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain, which he’d always wanted to do. I’m so glad he went on that trip.

“Everything was fine until a scan early this year showed Sam’s tumour was growing and had become a grade 4.”

As a result, his scans were moved to every two weeks. In July we had a Teams conversation with a consultant at the NHNN who said we had three options, to accept Sam’s fate and do nothing, to have more chemo which he didn’t believe would work or to have a horrendous operation which was likely to leave Sam paralysed.

In August, whilst we were weighing up what to do, Sam went for three pre-op assessments. It was around this time he started suffering from severe headaches. In mid-September, he left to go to the gym but returned home saying he couldn’t do it because of his head and I needed to call 111.

We were told to go to A&E at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, in Harlow, but when we got there, it was a complete nightmare. Sam couldn’t even sit in a chair but no one would see him. At 10pm, I asked how much longer he would have to wait and was told seven hours. Sam was far too uncomfortable to wait that long and so we left, but he collapsed in the road outside our home. We had an air ambulance attend and a doctor who drove from North Weald, Essex.

“They worked on him in the house but he never regained consciousness after that.”

Sam was in intensive care for three days. There was talk of transferring him to Queen’s Hospital in Romford, which is the main neurosurgical referral centre for North East London and Essex, but he wasn’t well enough to go. His tumour had grown so much that it shut down his brain stem.

“Six of Sam’s friends stayed with me in the hospital, which was a comfort really, and we were all there when Sam passed away on 15 September.”

I returned to the hospital the following day, to be alone with Sam one last time. I then had to make a decision about organ donation. That’s his legacy, donating his heart, kidneys and liver to help others. I’m also planning to raise funds for Brain Tumour Research next year in his name.

I dedicated my life to Sam throughout his illness and we had a such a good time together. I’m simply devasted to have lost him. Life can be so cruel. There needs to be more research into brain tumours to stop this sort of thing from happening, and A&E departments need to prioritise brain tumour patients because of how quickly their condition can change. I wouldn’t wish the pain I’m feeling now on anyone else.

“We have to do better for our children.”

Irene Browne
December 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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