Man who discovered he had brain tumour after having seizure on commute to take on charity swim

A man from Leeds who discovered he had a brain tumour when he had a seizure on a drive to work is taking on a swimming challenge to help find a cure for the disease.

Rory Burke, 50, is taking part in the Brain Tumour Research charity’s Swim Challenge In August.

He was diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma brain tumour in February 2012 after having a seizure while driving to work.

Rory said: “I only realised what had happened when I came round and discovered I had mounted the pavement. I felt disorientated, but decided to drive home, as I knew something wasn’t quite right.

Rory Burke, 50, is taking part in the Brain Tumour Research charity’s Swim Challenge In August.

“When I got home, it happened again but this time I was fitting, and an ambulance was called. It wasn’t until a few days later that I woke up, alone and confused in intensive care in Hull Royal Infirmary.”

Rory had a CT scan which revealed a mass on his brain.

“I’m a very black and white type of person and the news that I had a tumour shocked me a little, but my main emotion was acceptance", he added.

"I really just tried to stay positive.

Rory Burke, 50, is taking part in the Brain Tumour Research charity’s Swim Challenge In August.

"Not everyone who is diagnosed with a brain tumour has options, so when the doctors went through the different treatments available to me, I felt lucky that there was something that could be done.”

Rory’s neurologist advised that surgery was needed but, because the tumour was close to his motor strip, he would need to have an awake craniotomy.

This is an operation in which the patient is given a general anaesthetic, so they are completely unconscious whilst the neurosurgeon gains access to the brain through the skull.

Once the neurosurgeon is ready to operate on the tumour, the patient is woken up and asked to perform simple tasks such as speaking, moving their hands, feet and other basic neurological tests.

Rory Burke, 50, is taking part in the Brain Tumour Research charity’s Swim Challenge In August.

The operation in March 2012 had to be stopped mid-way through the procedure because Rory had a seizure.

The rescheduled operation took place in April.

He said: “During the operation I experienced around 15 seizures as I lay there awake on the table. They asked me questions and checked if I could feel and move parts of my body. It was a very weird experience."

In January 2016, a routine CT scan revealed the remaining tumour was beginning to grow again, so Rory opted to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

He decided to leave his job in recruitment because of his epilepsy, and to focus on his recovery.

Since then, he has raised more than £7,000 for Brain Tumour Research by taking part in cycling challenges.

He also invited his MP Hilary Benn to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours (APPGBT).

Rory said: “Over time, I think he must have got fed up with me because he now regularly attends the APPGBT, and he also uses his social media channels to support campaigns such as Wear A Hat Day.”

Now, Rory will swim 10km throughout August at Nuffield Health in Leeds to raise more money for Brain Tumour Research.

He said: “After my diagnosis, I started swimming to help with the rehabilitation of my left-hand side.

“Exercise and physiotherapy have played such a crucial part in both my emotional and physical wellbeing, especially my continued work on my weakened left hand and arm.

“This challenge will be hard, but it’s one I’m determined to do.

“Raising money for research into brain tumours is so important because, without research there’s no progress.”

Matthew Price, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research said: “We’re really grateful to Rory for taking on another challenge, as it’s only with the support of people like him that we’re able to progress our research into brain tumours and improve the outcome for patients like Rory who are forced to fight this awful disease.

“Unlike many other cancers, brain tumours are indiscriminate. They can affect anyone at any time. Too little is known about the causes and that is why increased investment in research is vital.”