A woman from Telford who had to shield for two years after a shock brain tumour diagnosis is taking on a fundraising challenge to help find a cure for the deadly disease.
Speaking of the challenge, Keri said: “A few years ago I used to run 21 miles a week, and after two brain surgeries, several months of cancer treatment and two years of shielding, I know completing this challenge will be tough.”
Keri, who lives with 24-year-old daughter, Abby, a shift leader for Tesco, first started experiencing symptoms a year before she was diagnosed with a grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma in October 2019.
In June 2018, Keri, a member of Telford-based running club, Wrekin Road Runners, took part in Telford parkrun, during which she felt ‘a rush of dread from head to toe’, which caused everything to play in slow motion and she had the sudden urge to vomit. She went to the GP, who had no concern as she had not collapsed.
A year later, Keri developed severe headaches which were triggered every time she got out of a car. Over the course of several weeks, she went back and forth to the doctor but was told the pain was likely to be stress or work-related due to using a tablet most days.
On 17 September, in search of her own answers, she went to Specsavers in Wellington.
Keri said: “I saw the optometrist tapping away on the keyboard after the eye examination and he said: ‘I’m typing you a letter and I want you to take it to your GP as soon as you leave here.’ I asked why and he told me the eye test indicated I had a brain aneurism.”
Keri drove to A&E at Princess Royal Hospital in Telford and collapsed shortly after arriving. Tests revealed the devastating news that there was a 6cm mass growing on her brain.
She said: “The doctors waited for my daughter and father to arrive before delivering the news to me. All I wanted to know was if the tumour was cancerous. I was told it didn’t present as such but it would need further investigation.”
Four weeks later, on 19 October, after a course of steroids to shrink the tumour, surgeons at Royal Stoke University Hospital removed 90% of the tumour, leaving the remainder wrapped around the motor neurone nerve. Attempting to remove the remaining 10% could have left Keri paralysed.
Biopsy results showed the tumour was a grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma and Keri needed radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment.
Keri said: “The combination of my diagnosis and COVID-19 meant that I was classed as vulnerable and needed to shield. During my treatment my immune system crashed which was very scary as it meant that even the common cold or something like chicken pox would have been detrimental.
“It was very hard to go from running outside regularly to being told I need to stay at home, especially since running had become such an important part of my life.”
During her treatment in February 2020, Keri lost her mum to a tumour of the bile duct. This shattering loss came after losing her 30-year-old sister, Karen to Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2000.
Keri said: “In a way, I think seeing what my sister and mum went through helped to prepare me for what I may have had to face throughout my treatment.”
During a routine scan, doctors found a further two ‘dots’ on her brain which were caught early and were fully removed in January 2021.
In the last three years Keri has had a total of two brain surgeries, 33 sessions of radiotherapy and 11 cycles of chemotherapy, she now attends regular scans to monitor for any changes.
Keri said: “While I was shielding, I became a record-breaker, breaking the record for the most participants taking part in a virtual 5k at one time. I stopped shielding in December and achieved my 150th parkrun in person. It felt wonderful to be out, moving my body again.”
Just five months after finishing treatment for the second time, Keri has been busy planning her route as she prepares to take on 10,000 Steps a Day in February to raise awareness and fundraise to help find a cure for brain tumours.
Keri said: “The radiotherapy meant I lost hearing in my right ear which has now come back so I am easing my way back into walking and running and this challenge is the perfect way to do that.”
After a successful first challenge a year ago which raised nearly £1 million to support vital research and campaigning, Brain Tumour Research’s 10,000 Steps a Day in February Challenge is back. The charity is calling for people to step up to the Facebook challenge and make it even bigger and better in 2022. Participants will receive a free emoji t-shirt and fundraising pack when they receive their first donation and a special medal if they raise £274 or more.
Mel Tiley, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research, said: “We’re sorry to hear about Keri’s diagnosis. It’s incredible that she is using her 10,000 Steps a Day in February Challenge as part of her recovery just five months after a second brain surgery. We wish her the best of luck.
“The great thing about the challenge is that you can fit your steps in with your everyday life. That could be having a coffee and catching up with friends at your local park, walking your commute or school run instead of driving, getting off the bus a few stops earlier or walking around your house whilst on the phone. You could even team up with friends or colleagues and complete your steps together!”
Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure. 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.
You can sponsor Keri on her 10,000 Steps a Day in February Challenge by visiting www.facebook.com/donate/282749140541344