Dad, 47, died of brain tumour after suffering the ‘odd headache’

Brain tumour: Cancer Research UK on 'different types' in 2017

A died-of-two died aged just 47 after the “odd headache” turned out to be caused by an aggressive brain tumour.

Peter Smallbone, from Birmingham, died in July last year, 15 months after his devastating diagnosis.

The former councillor had been suffering from the “odd headache” – which he was told by his GP was likely stress-related.

His wife, Laura, said: “Peter suffered from the odd headache, but he just took paracetamol and he was fine.

“Just the day before being admitted into the hospital, over the Easter weekend, he had taken our children to football practice.

“There were other signs that, in hindsight, were linked to Peter’s brain tumour.

“His personality changed, which we now know was due to the tumour being in the right frontal lobe.

“He began to obsessively buy lots of tickets for things, such as gigs, sometimes two on the same night.

“He also began to question how happy he was with his life and could say mean things to me and the children – which was very unlike him. He was a very loving husband and dad.”

Then, one day, Peter had severe fatigue, but as the day went on, he rapidly went downhill and started vomiting and swaying when he was walking.

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He was taken to hospital in an ambulance where he had a CT scan.

Laura, 45, said: “The doctors said that they had found a mass and that it was likely to be cancer.

“It was a very difficult time as I couldn’t be at the hospital with him due to all of the Covid restrictions.”

Peter had surgery the next day, which was Easter Sunday, to remove the eight centimetre tumour in Peter’s brain.

The tumour was confirmed to be a glioblastoma and a gruelling regiment of radiotherapy and chemotherapy followed, which initially worked.

However, in October, a routine scan showed the tumour was back and Peter had surgery just before Christmas. But, just eight weeks later, the tumour had grown again and there were no other treatment options available.

“We sought second opinions, we tried all the options given to us, but after Peter’s tumour grew back, we were told there was nothing else that could be done,” Laura, who works as a teacher, said.

Peter was later admitted to a hospice where he died in July.

Now Laura is campaigning for more treatment options for people diagnosed with glioblastoma.

She said: “There also needs to be more awareness of the disease so that there is a greater understanding of what families like ours had to face.”

Laura is supporting a major UK trial of an oral spray containing cannabinoids – several structural classes of compounds found in cannabis – to treat the most aggressive brain tumours.

The trial – funded by The Brain Tumour Charity – will investigate whether combining nabiximols and chemotherapy can help extend the lives of people diagnosed with recurrent glioblastoma.

Principal Investigator, Professor Susan Short, Professor of Clinical Oncology and Neuro-oncology at the University of Leeds, said: “Even with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, nearly all of these brain tumours re-grow within a year, and unfortunately, there are very few options for patients once this occurs.

“Glioblastomas have receptors to cannabinoids on their cell surface, and laboratory studies on glioblastoma cells have shown these drugs may slow tumour growth and work particularly well when used with temozolomide.”

Common symptoms of brain tumours include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Persistently feeling sick (nausea), being sick (vomiting) and drowsiness
  • Mental or behavioural changes, such as memory problems or changes in personality
  • Progressive weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
  • Vision or speech problems.

If you experience unexplained symptoms of a brain tumour you should speak to your GP.

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