The Yorkshire adults and children battling brain tumours

Brain tumours kill more children and adults under 40 than any other cancer. Catherine Scott speaks to survivors and a doctor 
about the disease.

Tyler Dunn, nine, ringing the bell at the end of his cancer treatment for a brain tumour

Tyler Dunn is over joyed to be back at school. The nine-year-old is one of around 50 children in Yorkshire to be diagnosed with a brain tumour last year.

“Tyler was complaining of bad headaches,” explains dad Wayne from Settle.

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Their GP thought it might be a symptom of the flu that Tyler was recovering from. But a few days later Tyler ran into the house vomiting, holding his head and screaming in pain. He was rushed to Airedale General Hospital in Keighley. A CT scan found a ‘lump’ in Tyler’s brain, he was blue-lighted to Leeds General Infirmary where another scan found a large tumour on his brain stem and he had a 13-hour operation to remove most of the tumour.

Tyler having treatment for a brain tumour

“It wasn’t until we said goodbye to Tyler and watched him being wheeled into theatre, that we realised the enormity of the situation,” recalls mum Simone, 27. “It was horrendous. Throughout everything, though, we have been determined to stay positive for Tyler and for our other two children, Liam, who is five and Ellie, who is just three. They are too young to understand what is happening to their beloved big brother.”

A biopsy revealed the tumour was a grade 3 or 4 medulloblastoma, the most common high-grade paediatric brain tumour. There was also some concern that Tyler may have suffered brain damage. Day by day, however, the brave schoolboy began to recover but not without more hurdles to overcome along the way.

He under went a ten-week course of proton beam radiotherapy at The Christie in Manchester which he finished in June 2020 and then began an eight-month course of chemotherapy at LGI. By the autumn term Tyler was able to go back to Settle Church of England Primary School for small periods of time. His teacher Samantha Ambrose, 31, said: “Tyler’s two younger siblings also attend the school. It’s been really tough for the whole family. Tyler was so brave throughout his treatment. ”

On 3 March this year Tyler was finally able to ring the end of treatment bell. To celebrate his return to school and the end of his cancer treatment, his calssmates will take part in Wear A Hat Day on Friday 26 March.

Tyler back at Settle Primary School who are holding a Wear a Hat Day on Friday for Brain Tumour Research

“It’s such a relief to see Tyler finish his chemo. He’s been so strong and brave throughout – he’s our warrior,” says his dad. “It’s been an incredibly challenging year and it’s not over yet, as Tyler will continue to be monitored with regular scans. We hope and pray the results will be positive.”

Leighton Moorhouse from Heckmondwike, was just six when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. “Leighton had always been a happy little boy full of smiles and giggles,” exlains mum Kerry. “During the winter of 2018, he became unwell, screaming in pain with headaches, vomiting and unable to walk in a straight line. He collapsed at school and was diagnosed with a brain tumour.”

Leighton underwent emergency surgery to release pressure on his brain, requiring a further operation two days later to remove the tumour.

“We were hours away from losing Leighton; our world just collapsed. Following surgery, we spent just over a month on the neuro ward, he couldn’t walk or talk, but he still laughed and giggled.” Leighton’s family received further bad news, when it was discovered he had a grade four medulloblastoma, requiring 30 rounds of radiotherapy and four rounds of chemotherapy. Now aged eight, he has finished his treatment and is doing well, having six monthly scans.

Leighton Moorhouse who was diagnosed with a brain tumour aged six.

“He has a beaming smile that shines through and is not letting Egbert (that’s what he called his tumour) take control of who he is and the life he loves.” Candlelighters supported Leighton and his family throughout. Since 2018, Candlelighters have supported academic neurosurgeon, Ryan Mathew, as part of a programme to enhance brain tumour research. Ryan splits his time between treating brain tumour patients and researching to develop these treatments. He is the first and only academic neurosurgeon at Leeds’ Hospitals and one of only a few across the UK: a role made possible through funding from Candlelighters and Yorkshire’s Brain Tumour Charity.

Steve Ryder, is working with the charity Brain Tumour Research to help raise awareness of the disease. Steve, who is married to Eileen and is stepdad to Joseph, 13, Caitlin, 16, and Josh, 26, was diagnosed with two brain tumours and two bleeds on his brain in July 2020. His diagnosis came after suffering a seizure while out training for a charity cycle event.

“A quarter of a mile up a big climb, my mouth started opening and shutting on its own. I pulled over and a few seconds later, I began having a seizure.” Steve managed to attract the attention of a passers-by, who called an ambulance. He was taken to Calderdale Royal Hospital.

“I woke up to the sight of about eight medics, masked up at the foot of the bed. One of them unceremoniously told me that I had two brain tumours and two brain bleeds.” Steve had a seven-hour craniotomy to remove the tumours, but the results from a biopsy revealed he had stage 4 melanoma from a misdiagnosed mole that was removed from my his chest in May 2018. He began a course of immunotherapy. The last set of MRI scan results Steve received were positive, with no signs of tumour recurrence.

Steve Ryder is raising fund for Bratin Tumour Research after being diagnosed with two brain tumours last year Picture: Gary Longbottom

For his birthday, Steve set up a fundraiser for Brain Tumour Research, raising £2,600. “I just wanted to give a little bit back, especially when I started reading into the shocking statistics surrounding the disease. I’ve learned to live a lot more and not to put things off. You only ever have today; tomorrow is not guaranteed.”

Ryan Mathew who is funded by Brain Tumour Research to treat patients but also research the killer disease in Leeds