Checking your weather


  • Auckland
    • Auckland
  • Canterbury
    • Ashburton
    • Christchurch
    • Timaru
  • Central North Island
    • Rotorua
    • Taupo
    • Tauranga
    • Whakatane
  • Hawke's Bay
    • Gisborne
    • Hastings
    • Napier
  • Manawatu
    • Dannevirke
    • Levin
    • Palmerston North
    • Whanganui
  • Marlborough
    • Blenheim
    • Kaikoura
  • Nelson
    • Motueka
    • Nelson
  • Northland
    • Dargaville
    • Kaitaia
    • Paihia
    • Russell
    • Whangarei
  • Wellington
    • Paraparaumu
    • Masterton
    • Wellington
  • Otago
    • Alexandra
    • Dunedin
    • Oamaru
    • Queenstown
    • Wanaka
  • Southland
    • Gore
    • Invercargill
  • Taranaki
    • New Plymouth
    • Taumarunui
  • Waikato
    • Hamilton
    • Te Kuiti
    • Thames
    • Tokoroa
  • West Coast
    • Westport
    • Greymouth
    • Reefton
    • Hokitika

'Brain tumours are cancer's last taboo'

Brain cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers.

When Georgie Beadman started getting headaches at 34, it seemed impossible that it could be anything serious.

"What could go wrong with a fit and healthy young woman?" asks her husband Cristian, more than eight years on. "She kept trim - did fitness videos every morning, and always ate organic."

But to the couple's horror, doctors discovered that Georgie had a brain tumour "the size of an egg".

Surgery was scheduled immediately but the couple were warned that there was no cure for malignant tumours. Doctors could only use surgery and radiotherapy to control the cancer, and prolong her life - not save it. They suggested that she had just five years to live.

My 'stress' was a brain tumour
'Always look at the upsides': 10-year-old talks about life with a brain tumour
Eight-year-old boy with cancer finds the love of his life


"The doctors had warned us there might be some bad news so we tried to steel ourselves in advance, but there's no way you can prepare yourself for that diagnosis," Cristian remembers.


"We came out of the hospital in Oxford on a grey bleak day, and stood outside with buses rumbling past, holding each other, not really knowing what to say. But within 10 minutes Georgie was saying, 'Right, I'm going to beat this'."

At the time, Cristian and Georgie had two children - seven-year-old Alfie and five-year-old Jemima. Cristian was working as an auctioneer and specialist on Antiques Roadshow, while Georgie had given up her lucrative job as a project manager in London to look after the children and work on her pottery in their Oxfordshire home.

They had met briefly whilst Cristian was studying at university in Edinburgh, and began dating a year later when a friend invited him to a dinner party in London. He was living in Bath at the time, but when he discovered the "girl he liked" would be there, he drove over immediately. From then on the couple were inseparable - and married in 2000.

"We had it perfect," reminisces Cristian, now 42. "We'd both come from broken homes and we were both obsessed with stability and family - all the boring things that make boring middle class people boring middle class people. We had cats and dogs. It was all perfect - until cancer came along."

Some 16,000 people are diagnosed with a brain tumour every year in the UK, and more children and adults under 40 in the UK die from this type of cancer than any other.

Cristian and Georgie knew little about the illness - but for the next seven years, their lives revolved around it.

"Georgie always had great hope, and I always felt guilty because in my heart I didn't share that hope. She needed that hope to keep going but I had to think about her, and also what the future would be. I never let her know that I wasn't as hopeful. Ever, ever."

Georgie went through surgery shortly after being diagnosed, and for the next few years, scans showed her tumour was lying dormant. But in 2011, it came back. She had to have another major operation, this time followed by radiotherapy.

It was successful in eliminating the original tumour, but months later scans found that dozens of smaller tumours had sprung up near the top of her spine. She underwent one more operation, followed by chemotherapy, but the new tumours proved too aggressive to be treated.

That was when Cristian had to tell the children their mother was dying.

"They knew something was wrong immediately. They said, 'Daddy, this is about Mummy isn't it?' I had to tell them, 'she's probably not coming home from hospital' - language which charities had suggested I use instead of saying 'she's dying.'

"But the children aren't stupid; they knew. The whole thing was appalling. It was exactly how you'd imagine telling two children their mum isn't coming home."

On February 11 2015, Georgie died aged 41. She had defied doctors' expectations, living two more years than they'd predicted - something Cristian credits to her spirit.

"She was immensely strong compared to me. She would internalise a lot but she was very proactive, doing things like researching the most anti-carcinogenic type of tomato. I'm certain she managed to extend her life."

Today, Cristian is keen to raise awareness about brain tumours.

"Less than two per cent of the Government's national spend on cancer research goes to brain tumours," he stresses. This is in spite of the fact that brain cancer is on the rise by more than two per cent a year.

Brain cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers, says a spokesperson for the charity Brain Tumour Research. "Despite the fact that survival rates in other cancers are improving, brain tumours are one of very few conditions that are becoming more prevalent".

Cristian recently supported a petition for more state funding for brain tumour research which reached more than 100,000 signatures, meaning it must be debated in parliament. "In a way it's the last taboo cancer, and that's why it receives less funding. People openly talk about testicular cancer and breast cancer now, which is great. The problem with brain tumours is they can affect how you act and there's still a taboo around mental health."

Georgie would have welcomed his plea for more research money, he says. Four years before she died, she signed her husband up for a sponsored bike ride from London to Paris. He raised more than $12,752 for Brain Tumour Research - and came first. He tears up as he remembers her standing with the children under the Eiffel Tower to congratulate him, and then apologises for his emotions.

"I'm sorry. But it's almost nice when you get this overwhelming grief because that's what I feel I should be feeling. When I'm not feeling that grief, on days when I'm just getting on with life and doing selfish things like booking holidays, I just feel guilt.

"Someone told me you never move on [after bereavement]. You just find ways to deal with it. This is the thing - to move on and try to start again you have to forget. But you don't want to forget because they were the love of your life for 20 years and you had children together. You don't want to move on."

The family don't mark the anniversary of Georgie's death, but will celebrate what would be her 43rd birthday this year.

"It's the time when the children feel it the most," he says. "We'll do what we did last year which is go to France with friends, head into the woods with candles and share memories of her."

It is a way to honour her last request to him: "Please, don't forget me."

The Telegraph, London



Comments are closed for this article