Leeds woman with brain tumour rallying to raise awareness and funds with help of Chapel Allerton community

When Emer Galvin was diagnosed with a brain tumour in January 2020, she did not initially believe it was possible for the doctor to be uttering the dreaded words to her.

Emer, 60, runs Glasshouse Gallery in Chapel Allerton and initially just went to visit a doctor after suffering from headaches.

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After being assessed, she was blindsided by the news that she had a brain tumour.

After being assessed, she was blindsided by the news that she had a brain tumour. Credit: James Hardisty

"It was the biggest shock in the world," she said. "When the doctor said 'we think you've got a brain tumour', I turned round and looked behind me and said 'are you talking to me?'.

"It was from headaches and everybody gets headaches. It was a massive shock and I asked a consultant what might happen, and he said 'you might die'.

"I was just in a sort of dream - a bad dream."

The Covid-19 pandemic descended on the country shortly after Emer's diagnosis and suddenly, she was away from her shop and isolated with an illness she had not foreseen having.

With the support of the local Chapel Allerton community, she remains determined to work towards greater awareness and investment into addressing brain tumours despite her illness. Credit: James Hardisty

"I was just going through and doing what I was told for a while," she explained. "I was on steroids which makes you feel completely spaced out.

"During lockdown, I bought a piano. I made things for the shop and just immersed myself in doing things and finding ways to stay positive and have belief. I found comfort in what I suppose are very spiritual things - music, crystals, all sorts of things to make me believe.

"I joined a group through the Yorkshire Brain Tumour Charity and they helped a huge amount. Through lockdown, we had regular Zoom get-togethers.

"I found it tricky because I'm not good on tech stuff and talking to people on Zoom. I found out I was the only one in the whole area that had a tumour that wasn't operable, everyone else had had multiple heavy-duty surgeries and I couldn't.

"That was a strange feeling, being a bit in the dark, thinking what might happen, how quickly things might happen or how slowly. I'm waiting for the next scan to see what's happened but I'm still feeling as I have for the last year really. I'm just staying positive and crossing my fingers."

According to Brain Tumour Research, brain tumours kill more children and adults than any other cancer. The charity also claim that historically, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours.

"I didn't know anything about brain tumours," she said. "It's not just to fundraise, it's to raise awareness.

"I thought - what can I do to help? Over the last two years, I've done what I can with buying things to sell in the shop and donate to charity."

With the help of her local community in Chapel Allerton, Emer has rallied to raise as much awareness and money for Brain Tumour Research as possible.

A UK-based medical research charity, Brain Tumour Research campaign for additional investment into research and are also fundraising to create a network of seven sustainable Brain Tumour Research centres of excellence.

Emer took part in the charity's Wear a Hat Day 2022 and recently held a fundraising event at her shop, the Glasshouse Gallery.

Her son is a musician and dropped in to perform a live set but it was not just family Emer was able to count on for support.

She sent emails out simply asking for local business owners to display a poster advertising her fundraising in her shop.

Local independent businesses obliged and then went above and beyond, donating hundreds of pounds worth of raffle prizes between them.

"It's been absolutely fantastic," Emer said. "We had posters to advertise the raffle and fundraiser so I sent some emails and asked if I would be able to put my poster up in their shop.

"Nearly all of them got back to me and said yes - and we'll donate prizes. We got hundreds of pounds of raffle prizes and vouchers from beauticians, restaurants, pizza places, loads of them."

Over £400 has been raised for Brain Tumour Research but Emer is aware that funding research into tumours can be costly and that more needs to be done.

"So far, we've raised over £400," she said. "The organiser suggested that the cost of one day's brain tumour research is not far off £300 - so it's just one day."

Emer did not initially share her condition outside of close friends and family. When sharing details of the fundraiser, she opened up about her condition and was inundated with messages of support.

"I've been out of action on and off for about two-and-a-half years and I didn't really advertise what was happening to me," she said. "I didn't really tell anybody except close friends and family.

"I had to explain the reason I was doing the fundraiser and then people that I didn't even know sent me messages and it was fantastic."

Currently, Emer is having regular MRI scans to keep tabs on her tumour, the last two of which have shown it to be stable.

More treatment further down the line has not been ruled out and chemotherapy and radiotherapy are both possibilities.

However, with the support of the local Chapel Allerton community, she remains determined to work towards greater awareness and investment into addressing brain tumours despite her illness.

She said: "Chapel Allerton and the groups of people that live and work here are great."

Donations can be made to Brain Tumour Research here.