David Mitchell from Woolston in Warrington has clocked up the 950 miles between the two extremities in the UK. He has battled all types of extreme weather throughout his journey, with just a short break at home to celebrate his 60th birthday with his family at the near halfway point. He has smashed his fundraising target of £950 – which was £1 for each mile – and has so far raised around £2000 for The Brain Tumour Charity.
David took on the challenge with his friend Mike after his daughter, Emma, was diagnosed with a low grade trigeminal schwannoma in 2015 when she was just 21-years-old. She had been having symptoms including pins and needles down one side of her face, headaches and she also developed a squint for months before she was accurately diagnosed.
Unbeknown to the family at the time, Emma had many of the classic symptoms of a brain tumour as highlighted by The Brain Tumour Charity’s Headsmart campaign which raises awareness of the signs of brain tumours amongst children and young adults.
David said: “The first few days of cycling were incredibly challenging with lots of long hills over many miles in the mixed weather which we have been having – alongside maintenance issues with the bikes too. Yet the scenery was fantastic and I know that Emma was my real motivation for doing this. Emma, Emma’s mum Rachel and myself are ‘Team Emma’ and we all have different ways and skills of supporting our daughter – I have the legs to do this so that’s what I will be doing!”
Emma took a year off her degree in Psychology at Durham University to have surgery to remove the tumour followed by radiotherapy. The family including Emma’s two siblings, Rhona and Bryn, did all they could to support Emma and she was able to return to University to gain her 2:1 degree qualification.
Emma first heard about The Brain Tumour Charity a couple of years after her diagnosis when she was searching online for help and information. Since then, the family have attended events run by the Charity, mum Rachel has used the closed Facebook group for carers and Emma is also a Young Ambassador for the Charity to help and support young people who are affected by a brain tumour diagnosis.
Emma said: “I am so proud of my dad and all he is doing to support The Brain Tumour Charity. My diagnosis was a very lonely and isolating experience and I really struggled to find my feet again. But, The Brain Tumour Charity changed my life for the better. Thanks to the Charity, I feel more comfortable with my situation and I have the confidence to speak about my experiences – I only wish that I had discovered the organisation sooner!
“Being a Young Ambassador for The Brain Tumour Charity has been a fantastic experience. This role is now coming to an end but I have met so many lovely and inspiring people along the way. I want to continue to support the vital work of the Brain Tumour Charity as there are always lots of opportunities to get involved in their work.”
Life after Emma’s diagnosis and treatment did not go back to ‘normal’ as the tumour continues to have a long-term impact on her life. Emma has ongoing side-effects including pain, chronic dry eye, cognitive difficulties, fatigue, lack of sensation on one side of her face, low self-esteem and anxiety. Regular scans to monitor her condition have also suggested that the tumour is slowly growing and that she may need surgery again in the future.
Emma successfully graduated despite her brain tumour diagnosis whilst she was studying.
Emma’s family have been a constant source of valuable support for her.
Emma’s dad David and his friend Mike covered the miles together.
2020 was a difficult year for Emma and her family. Her recurring eye problems meant numerous trips to St Paul’s Eye Hospital in Liverpool or Warrington General Hospital for investigations and treatment. She uses various ointments and drops several times a day to treat it and periodically has to wear an eye patch, including when she is asleep. There are also concerns about the long-term impact on her sight.
Mum Rachel said: “I really struggled when Emma was diagnosed. As her mum, it’s my job to protect her and she was facing something which I had no control over. I have never known fear like it.
“I wish we had known sooner about The Brain Tumour Charity and that the medical team had signposted us to their services, especially the support they provide for families so we can better manage what we are going through too. I am proud of all that my family does to support the Charity.
“We have to hope for the best and try to stay positive so we just keep going, adapt as needed and prepare to meet each new challenge as and when it comes along. We will always continue to look after ourselves and each other.”
You can support David’s fundraising here.