Lara Griffith, 43, says anyone concerned they may have a brain tumour should trust their instincts and get checked out.
Speaking just weeks after her husband, Karl, died from a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumour at the age of 54, she recalled how she first realised something was wrong in May 2020.
She said: “Karl was really busy with his work as an operations manager. He’s usually calm-natured, but he was really irrational, and he couldn’t find the right words to say. He was even getting all the kids’ names muddled. He was so fit and healthy, he loved running and hiking, and he never had a day off work. But he had this permanent headache that wouldn’t go away.”
Lara, mum to Alannah, 10, Indi, 15, and Livinia, 22, said that when Karl sought medical help he was advised he was stressed and should take a few days off work.
Lara said: “His whole personality changed, he was really snappy and kept complaining that his food was off. I thought he had early-onset dementia.” Karl had blood tests which came back clear. But still troubled by his symptoms and getting worse he went back and was referred for a scan at the Royal Preston Hospital. The results were devastating revealing a mass on his brain.
Lara, a travel consultant, said: “I’m a practical person and think that everything has a solution. I thought they would do an operation and all would be fine.”
Some months later Karl had an awake craniotomy and three tumours were removed, but a fourth one remained and was impossible to remove.
Lara,said: “Karl was doing really well but from the end of November I was watching him decline every day and he lost his sight in one eye. I couldn’t lift him, so Karl had to go to St Catherine’s Hospice in Preston. He was hallucinating and thought the nurses were trying to kill him.”
On 6 January Karl died peacefully with his family by his side.
Lara said: “The effect of the brain tumour was devastating and so indiscriminate. Karl didn’t drink or smoke. I was angry with the doctors for not picking up on his symptoms, and it took so long to get a scan. I would tell anyone in a similar position to trust their instincts.”
Now Lara is working with the charity Brain Tumour Research, to help raise awareness of the fact that brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer yet historically just one per cent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.
Matthew Price, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “Karl’s brain tumour diagnosis is a stark reminder of the indiscriminate nature of the disease. It can affect anyone, at any time. As a charity, our vision is to find a cure for brain tumours. We’re building a network of experts in sustainable research at dedicated Centres of Excellence whilst influencing the Government and larger cancer charities to invest more nationally. We thank Lara sincerely for working with us to help raise awareness of brain tumours and the issues surrounding the disease.”
The charity is the driving force behind the call for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.
Fact File from Brain Tumour Research
Brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age
Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer
Historically, just one per cent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours
In the UK, 16,000 people each year are diagnosed with a brain tumour
Brain tumours kill more children than leukaemia
Brain tumours kill more men under 70 than prostate cancer
Brain tumours kill more women under 35 than breast cancer
Less than 12% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50% across all cancers
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