Runners inspired by brave Chris

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Chris Gregory has an inoperable brain tumour and is an inspiration to his family and friends. Catherine Scott reports.

Family and friends of a brave Sheffield man with an inoperable brain tumour will don union jacks and royal regalia when they take on a flagship fund-raising race.

It will be the seventh year in a row that family and friends of Chris Gregory have taken part in Neurocare’s Head Start, a 5k and 10k race which raises money for the Neurosciences ward at the city’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

Chris’s wife Mary, 45, says this year’s run – which takes place the day after the Royal Wedding – is evidence of Chris’ supporters on-going determination, which matches that of her husband who continues to defy his devastating diagnosis.

“I met Chris after he had been diagnosed as having a low grade brain tumour in 2004, which caused him to suffer from epilepsy. With medication this was controlled, but three years later the tumour suddenly increased in size,” says Mary.

“He had to have an operation to ease the pressure in his brain. It was a worrying, awful time.” But as time passed Chris learned to walk again and regained his strength to work as a landscape gardener.

Chris managed to lead as normal a life as he could, up until 2011, when it was found that the tumour had grown again. He needed another operation to remove as much of it as possible. Throughout all this he remained so positive. We were determined to face it together, in many ways it became our brain tumour.”

Unfortunately the tumour had become a Grade 4 Glioblastoma – the most common high grade primary brain tumour in adults.

“Radiotherapy followed and nearly two years of chemotherapy, which helped to stop the tumour from re-growing and thankfully he was stable again with regular scans.

“Due to the location of the tumour, Chris has also suffered several small strokes – one of which caused him to lose his sight in the left side of his both eyes. He now has 50 per cent vision which has its own struggles, and in his remaining vision he suffers from double vision much of the time.”

In May 2016 it was found that a new tumour had grown, albeit slowly, but this time classed as inoperable. Chris began more chemo, but whereas a few years ago it helped stunt the tumour growth, this time it did not.

“To enable him to enjoy all the things he loves to do when he’s well, he had a treatment break last summer. We had such fun walking, biking and camping together. We even did an amazing road trip up round the far north of Scotland as far as John O’Groats.

“It’s difficult for Chris, keeping upbeat with not having any cure on the horizon and having lived with this prognosis for the past six years.

“He is a cheerful and determined person who tries not to let it get him down, though. But he does get frustrated at not being able to do the things he used to loved to do, especially mountain biking.

“On a day to day basis, Chris has memory problems which we help improve with a white board at home with the week’s plans on and he uses a white stick to get around anywhere busy.”

It’s hard for Mary too. “Seeing him like this and working full time. It is hard not being able to get out and about as much as we used to but we do still try. People are always commenting on how much we fit into each weekend. You have to make the most of the time you can.

“Chris is an inspiration to all his friends and family, he has done amazingly and beaten the odds so far, so this gives us hope and helps him keep fighting which is why we continue to take part in Neurocare’s Head Start event.

“We joined in 2011 and always have a ‘Team Chris’, which usually consists of around 30 family and friends. Each year we pick a theme and dress up – we’ve been zombies, ‘Where’s Wally’, soldiers, old people, and even took to running in pyjamas. This year our theme is Best of British – so there may be a few Royals at the Head Start this year too.

“The first year Chris was in a wheelchair but since then he has been able to walk the course, but this year as he has deteriorated and he will be in a wheelchair again.”

Since 2011, Chris and Mary and their family and friends have raised almost £15,000 for Neurocare through an annual coffee morning and taking part in the Head Start event. They even donated a quarter of the money they asked for in lieu of wedding presents to be given to the charity. “It is good for something positive to come out of such a negative situation and I think it helps keep us going.”

Head Start, a 5k and chip timed 10k run, will take place on Sunday May 20 at Rother Valley Country Park.

The event is perfect for both first-time runners and seasoned professionals, as well as those who would just like to walk the course.

For more information, or to register, visit www.neurocare.org.uk/event/head-start-5k-10k,

To sponsor Team Chris visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teamchris2018