Meet the Leeds woman who ran a half marathon a year after brain tumour surgery

Robyn Stockwell competed in the Leeds Half Marathon earlier this month, just over a year after undergoing surgery on a brain tumour.

By Tom Coates
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 7:13 am

The operation on her grade four acoustic neuroma took 11 hours and one year and two days later, Robyn joined more than 5,000 people on the streets of Leeds on 8 May and raised money for Yorkshire's Brain Tumour Charity.

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She was diagnosed in April 2021 following a routine opticians appointment during which it was noticed there was something behind her left eye.

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Robyn Stockwell ran in the Leeds Half Marathon.

"They said they saw something behind my left eye. She kept asking me 'have you banged your head?', and I said 'no, definitely not'.

"She just asked me to go down to St. James's Hospital and then three hours later, after different tests and CT scans and everything, I was told I had a brain tumour.

"You don't ever think it's gonna happen to you. When they told me I was like, I was literally speechless because you just don't want to believe it."

Robyn was eventually transferred to Leeds General Infirmary, where a surgeon told her he was amazed at her ability to live a relatively normal life considering the size of her tumour.

She was told it would take between six and 12 months to walk and talk again after the surgery.

The now 30-year-old had continued running, working and driving despite the fact her brain had accumulated a lot of fluid but the surgery then took its toll.

Robyn said: "The moment I woke up, I had tubes all over there. I had a nurse literally sat in my little room with me, watching me, because obviously I couldn't do anything on my own.

"I literally thought, oh my gosh, this is this me for 12 months now - I can't move, I can't do anything on my own. I couldn't talk, I couldn't walk, I couldn't swallow. My whole independence was taken away from me. But in my head I was thinking 'I can't live like this'."

Regaining independence was a priority for Robyn in her recovery and one of the first questions she posed speaks volumes for her commitment to being active.

She said: "After I got discharged from hospital, I went to physiotherapy and one of the first things I asked her was 'when can I run again?'

"It couldn't even walk five steps without nearly falling on the floor because my balance was so off. I couldn't walk anywhere on my own, even around the house. I'd go make a cup of tea and I couldn't carry the cup because I'd probably fall over or trip and fall."

As it stands, her tumour is 'about the size of a dot' and will be monitored. The vast majority has been removed but cells being wrapped around what is left has prevented further removal.

A blend of persistence and patience in her recovery eventually led to Robyn getting back on her feet and eventually, running in the Leeds Half Marathon.

She said: "Something I struggled with quite a lot was fatigue, I'd be exhausted. I could just maybe go for a little walk and I'd just be absolutely exhausted and it would wipe me out for the rest of the day.

"13 miles is more than the normal run that I would probably do daily, but it was to prove to myself that I could do it."

Since undergoing surgery, she has worked closely with Yorkshire's Brain Tumour Charity, who she credits for helping her recover mentally from the ordeal.

Robyn said: "The staff at Leeds General Infirmary helped me to physically recover, but YBTC is helping me to mentally recover from this trauma.

"I can’t thank the charity enough for helping me to come to terms with what has happened, supporting me and getting me involved with their events, so I can meet people who have experienced the same journey as me."

She has managed to raise over £1,000 for the YBTC and further donations can be made on her JustGiving page.