In 2016 mum-of-three Lisa, from Hungerford in Berkshire, suffered a seizure and flu-like symptoms and was initially diagnosed with encephalitis. A follow-up scan six months later, revealed they were actually the symptoms of a brain tumour. The former fashion designer turned teaching assistant began chemotherapy but stopped after suffering badly with the side-effects. She died five years later, in March 2021, aged 50. Throughout her diagnosis Lisa fundraised and campaigned with Brain Tumour Research. Since her death her husband, Simon, and their three children are continuing to support the charity which was close to her heart.
Here is Lisa’s story, as told by her husband, Simon…
Lisa and I met at university, we both studied in York. It was my sister who introduced us. From 1991 we built a life together, moving to London where Lisa worked in the design teams for top fashion houses. We later moved our life to Hungerford. Lisa had a change of career after raising our three boys, working as a teaching assistant in a local school.
Whilst at work in 2016 she suffered a seizure. She called me to say she felt unwell and had flu-like symptoms and we met back at the house. I could see Lisa wasn’t herself, although fairly lucid.
We went to the GP and was referred to the Great Western Hospital in Swindon where she was treated for encephalitis. Lisa was placed on a drip and given antiviral medication which seemed to do the trick. She felt better and came home with a view to having a follow-up scan in six months to check her recovery from encephalitis.
Results of that scan shocked us both as we were told it showed a tumour which had spread across the left side of Lisa’s brain. What was thought to be a viral infection was actually symptoms of a brain tumour.
“We were in disbelief as to what we had been told. Lisa was presenting completely normal.”
There were feelings of deep frustration and upset as we were led to believe Lisa had already fought one illness, only to be told she had a brain tumour.
The consultant at the time couldn’t believe the person in front of them was the same person who the scan image belonged to.
We felt as though we had to push and push for a diagnosis. A biopsy three months later confirmed the tumour was a grade 3 glioma.
Doctors were concerned Lisa could develop epilepsy as a result of the tumour and was placed on medication to help with this. She had chemotherapy, the side effects of which completely wiped her out and after a couple of weeks she stopped this treatment. The risks and side effects outweighed the benefits.
For the next five years, Lisa was fine. She remained positive and used her diagnosis as a driving force to support Brain Tumour Research through campaigning and fundraising.
When lockdown hit, Lisa began to deteriorate. I was a spectator to the gradual decline of her health, including a degeneration of her speech and mobility. Caring for my poorly wife, raising three boys and maintaining a full-time job became a struggle. Support from the palliative team at Sue Ryder helped our family at the time.
Lisa passed away in March 2021, aged 50.
Our youngest, Aidan, who was 14 at the time, suggested doing something to remember Lisa. In June that year, we kayaked 200km to Bristol and back again, raising almost £7,000 for the charity.
It’s inspired us to do something annually to remember Lisa and the positive, loving, community-centric woman she was.
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.