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Horse and owner whose lives have been changed by brain tumours take on marathon trot to help find a cure

A WOMAN from Monmouthshire and her beloved horse are taking on a marathon challenge for a charity helping to find a cure for brain tumours after BOTH their lives were changed forever by the disease.

Shire sports horse Bertie who, at just three years old is already 17 hands tall, was taken in by Rose McRae Equine Services in Monmouthshire and is now on permanent loan with Jenny Jones, 57, from Usk, after his owner died from a brain tumour. 

Jenny’s son Calum was diagnosed with the disease in 2013 after suffering from headaches. Now the pair are stepping out to raise money for the charity Brain Tumour Research by taking part in its Jog 26.2 Miles in May Challenge.

Calum was 19 when he was diagnosed with a grade 1 glioma in January 2013 whilst studying motor mechanics at Brecon Beacons College. Doctors initially thought he was suffering from migraines. Calum, who is now 28, was referred to Evans and Jones opticians in Llandrindod Wells in Powys, Wales, after he began to suffer visual disturbances. 

The optometrist sent him to A&E at Hereford County Hospital after noticing his optic discs were full of fluid which was a result of intracranial pressure.

Mum-of-two, Jenny, who has worked in nursing for 39 years said: “Being in the healthcare profession helped me understand Calum’s diagnosis but it didn’t make it any easier to accept. It’s a tricky balance trying to remain his mum, but also knowing the medical side of things too.”

Following a lumbar puncture and CT scan, which came back clear, Calum’s condition worsened and a second opinion saw him referred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where an MRI scan revealed the devastating news of a mass on Calum’s brain.

He had a second operation to save his eyesight and relieve the build-up of pressure on his brain, however due to its location, the tumour itself is inoperable.

Calum has since completed his motor mechanic course and is nearing the end of his first year studying engineering at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David Technium (UWTSD) in Swansea.

Jenny said: “Following his diagnosis, Calum suffered from low mood and on his 25th birthday he had three grand mal seizures. From that point, something in him changed and he decided to go back to college; his outlook became much more positive.”

Calum now has three-yearly MRI scans to monitor the tumour and his last scan in October showed it is stable.

Jenny said: “I know that Calum’s tumour can change and become more aggressive, it’s something we live with every day. I want this disease to be gone.”

Jenny, who has been a horse owner for 46 years, has clocked up eight miles already through a combination of riding and in-hand, taking to the lanes of Gwehelog with young Bertie, who despite his young age is already 17 hands high, to raise awareness and fundraise to help fund the fight and find a cure for brain tumours.

She added: “I’ve now got Bertie on permanent loan and I have since found out that his owner died from a brain tumour – doing the challenge with him feels even more special now.

“Until March Bertie was feral. He’s come on so far since then and the plan is to jog up the hills and trot down them. I’m excited for the challenge and really hope that together, Bertie and I can help other families who may be living with their own diagnosis.”

Mel Tiley, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research, said: “Calum’s story is a stark reminder of how indiscriminate brain tumours are, affecting anyone at any age, yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease. We’re determined to change this and are so grateful for the support of people like Jenny whose fundraising efforts enable us to continue funding vital research and to, ultimately, find a cure.”

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 donate to Jenny’s fundraiser by visiting this link:  www.facebook.com/donate/674470717190224