Two primary schools, where staff have experienced the impact of a brain tumour, are taking part in a national fundraising event to help find a cure for the disease.
St Mark’s Primary School in Shelton and Etruscan Primary School in Etruria are taking part in Wear A Hat Day on 26 March to raise money for the charity Brain Tumour Research.
Head of School at St Mark’s, Lee Nicholls, lost his mother Janet who lived in Trentham to the disease just four months after she was diagnosed in August 2017.
Mr Nicholls said: “Mum had always been very healthy, but then she started doing strange things like not getting to work on time, sleeping during the day and being awake all night. We thought she was having mental health issues. Then she fell down the stairs a couple of times which was very worrying. We started to realise she was having difficulty processing things and even struggling to brush her own hair. Then she stopped talking or being able to dress herself. Eventually she couldn’t even walk. I was on holiday when an MRI scan revealed Mum had an inoperable and aggressive brain tumour and was given just three months to live.
“Mum was put on steroids to relieve a build-up of pressure in her brain and for a few weeks she was able to talk again, although never got back to walking properly. From the end of September onwards, Mum was bed-bound and from mid-October until she passed away in December, the only thing she could do was move her eyes. Dad became Mum’s full-time carer supported by Macmillan nurses.
“Before Mum, I knew nothing about brain tumours, but the last three months of her life were a living nightmare for the whole family. A tumour in the brain affects all the functions of the body because the brain controls everything we do, but the hardest part for me was not being able to communicate with her and wondering whether Mum was in pain or trying to tell us anything.”
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.
Michelle Johnstone, Executive Headteacher of both St Mark’s and Etruscan Primary School, said: “Several members of staff have had personal experience of brain tumours, so it’s touched a lot of people across the two schools, which encompass over 1,000 pupils and staff. I feel exceptionally lucky to be a brain tumour survivor, having been diagnosed myself a couple of years ago with a meningioma brain tumour. I underwent surgery to remove the low-grade tumour and the only lasting effect is that my hair turned grey.
“We are looking forward to celebrating Wear A Hat Day in a COVID-safe way with pupils making their own hats or bringing their favourite hat into school on the day and making a donation. I am planning to deliver an assembly to the children, explaining why research into brain tumours is so important.”
This year’s Wear A Hat Day is paying tribute to key worker families who have played a pivotal role throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Brain Tumour Research is inviting people to join in the fun of Wear A Hat Day by donning their best headwear from beanies to cowboy hats, flat caps to Panamas, baseball caps to berets.
Now in its 12th year, Wear A Hat Day has raised more than £2 million to help fund the fight against the disease. It is one of the UK’s biggest and best-loved brain tumour research awareness and fundraising days.
Melanie Tiley, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research said: “We are very grateful to the staff and pupils of St Mark’s and Etruscan Primary Schools for supporting Wear A Hat Day and hope they have lots of fun.
“It’s so touching to see people are once again embracing Wear A Hat Day, one year on from the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK. Our supporters’ dedication in these unprecedented times is genuine and inspiring and we can’t wait to join them in putting on our hats, having some fun and raising money to fund sustainable research that will bring us closer to a cure for brain tumours. Just 12 per cent of brain tumour patients survive beyond five years whereas, for cancers such as breast and leukaemia, the figures are 70 per cent and 40 per cent respectively because of greater investment for research in those areas.
“Please join us this Wear A Hat Day – let’s have fun and make a difference.”
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.
Whilst COVID-19 restrictions still apply, the charity is politely reminding supporters to observe safety measures when planning their events. Families, friends, workplaces and schools can however, still come together safely, virtually or in-person where restrictions allow, to raise money for this vital cause.
Registrations to take part are via www.wearahatday.org
(Main image pupils at St Marks school.)