Family backs HeadSmart to raise awareness

Debbie and Steve Nelson with their sons Reece and Charlie
Debbie and Steve Nelson with their sons Reece and Charlie

The family of Reece Nelson, who died of a brain tumour in 2012, are supporting a national campaign to raise awareness of the disease.

The eight-year-old, from Sundon Park, was diagnosed after he started vomiting regularly and despite undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, he died a year later.

Since then, his family have been raising money for The Brain Tumour Charity in his memory, The Reecie Nelson’s Superstars Fund.

They are now backing HeadSmart, a campaign run by the charity to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of childhood brain tumours.

HeadSmart has cut the average diagnosis time for a childhood brain tumour in the UK from more than 13 weeks to six and a half, the aim is to bring it to below four weeks.

It will focus on healthcare professionals, parents and teenagers in a bid to ensure patients with possible tumour symptoms are referred for specialist help as quickly as possible.

Reece’s mum Debbie said: “We know from our own experience how important it is for doctors and parents to recognise when a child might have a brain tumour.

“HeadSmart has had an impact already but there are still too many people out there who don’t spot the warning signs.

“At first we thought it was just a bug which seemed feasible as the sickness stopped for all of August.

“In September Reece was all excited about going to junior school but started to be sick again three days later.

“We took him to the doctors and after ruling out other causes we were sent to the Luton and Dunstable hospital for further tests.

“The first MRI scan was performed on 19th September, this was the day our world fell apart and Reece was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma. The cancer was so aggressive and he was given just weeks. We took him home and spent our last weeks doing as much together as possible.

“Reece was unique, he adored life and had an infectious personality which only drew people close to him. He is so badly missed by everyone, every minute of every day. We hope that the HeadSmart campaign will make others aware of brain tumour symptoms and save families from going through what we have.

The HeadSmart campaign, which includes pocket-sized symptoms cards and a website, lists the warning signs of a brain tumour in babies, children and teenagers.

These include vomiting, balance problems and unusual eye movements, newly added symptoms include increasing head circumference in under-fives and loss of vision across all age groups.

Hayley Epps, campaign manager for The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Brain tumours kill more children in the UK than any other type of cancer.

“HeadSmart has two aims: to save lives and reduce long-term disability by bringing down diagnosis times.

“Reece’s story shows very clearly why HeadSmart is so important.

“We are very grateful to his family for their support.”