Grantham Journal Big Interview: Funding research that saved father

Wayne Chessum with his 12-year-old daughter Hollie and wife Debbie.
Wayne Chessum with his 12-year-old daughter Hollie and wife Debbie.
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For most, fighting a brain tumour would be enough of a battle.

However, since his diagnosis Billingborough father-of-three Wayne Chessum and his wife Debbie have been fund-raising tirelessly for Brain Tumour Research, and with friends and family raised an astonishing £20,000.

Debbie spoke to the Journal about their experience and the importance of funding research into the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40.

How did you find out Wayne had a brain tumour?

In January 2008 we had just returned from a holiday in Florida when Wayne first started to feel poorly. He thought it was a cold, but then spent a whole weekend in bed and didn’t want to eat or talk. We visited the GP who was sufficiently concerned to refer him to Grantham Hospital for a CT scan. They found a tumour in his brain, and it was a massive shock. Wayne was transferred to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, which specialises in neuro-surgery, where he underwent a craniotomy to remove what was diagnosed as a benign haemangioblastoma in his cerebellum.

The following year, we had another devastating blow when a scan revealed there was some regrowth of the tumour. Wayne was recommended for stereotactic radiosurgery at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, which uses a large number of precisely directed beams of radiation (201 to be precise). However the worst part was having the frame put on, which is screwed into the skull with only a local anaesthetic! After the radiosurgery we were told it was a waiting game.

It wasn’t until three years later that the neuro-surgeon could tell Wayne his tumour was static with no regrowth. He will continue to have MRI scans every 12 months, and we now hope that subsequent scans will show the tumour reducing.

Tell us about the fund-raising.

Two of Wayne’s fellow members of Billingborough Cricket Club, Dave Newman and Richard Wells, raised £14,000 earlier this year by breaking the Guinness World Record for continuous batting. I ran the London and Edinburgh Marathons and there has also been a disco, garden party, Santa sleigh ride, Christmas card sale and ‘Wear A Hat Day’ at Billingborough CofE Primary, our daughter Hollie’s old school.

How has it affected Wayne?

He had to retire as a prison officer and is now self-employed doing painting, decorating and other jobs. He struggles with balance and coordination in the dark, but despite these difficulties he is back playing cricket – one of the biggest loves of his life! Before the diagnosis, Wayne was extremely fit and this dramatically assisted the speed of his recovery.

Until Wayne discovered he had a brain tumour, we were oblivious to how common this condition was and have since come across two other cases just in our village. His neuro-surgeon said that if the haemangioblastoma had been detected 10 years earlier, Wayne would probably no longer be with us, but fortunately medical understanding has moved on a little. With more investment in research, who knows where we could be in terms of treatments for brain tumours 10 years on?

Wayne now tries to live life to the full and enjoy every day; he commented that it is not all bad news – since his surgery he no longer suffers from the effects of hangovers if he happens to over indulge! We wake up every day thinking how lucky we are that we are all still here and every time we go to the hospital we thank the surgeons for what they have done for Wayne.

For more information on the charity Brain Tumour Research, and how you can help, go to www.braintumourresearch.org