In August 2014 Raman Minhas heard the words no parent ever wants to hear from a doctor: “Your child has a brain tumour.”
His son Aiden, aged only two, also had one of the rarest forms of the disease. Within a week he had life-saving emergency surgery at the Queen’s Medical Centre.
But thanks to experts in Nottingham, children like Aiden, and others like him who will be diagnosed in future, have a fighting chance.
And now The Children’s Brain Tumour research centre at the University of Nottingham has launched a new campaign to raise funds for more research into childhood cancer.
The centre is celebrating twenty years of expertise and guidance on brain tumours and is the focus of the University’s annual fundraising appeal, Life Cycle.
To launch the appeal, children at different stages of their treatment and their families attended a launch at the University along with other people who have lost loved-ones to the disease.
Raman Minhas said: “In August 2014 Aiden was diagnosed with an aggressive and very advanced brain tumour.
“Initially it was some surgery and life-saving treatment to relieve some of the pressure on his brain and subsequently he started a very long course of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and some more supportive surgery.”
Aiden is still undergoing treatment and his mother, Neenu recalls how difficult it was for her son to understand what was happening.
She said: “I think it was such a shock because he had been such a well child, doing all the normal things children do but at two and-a-half then not being able to tell you what’s wrong and having headaches.”
Raman added: “Aiden’s tumour was an extremely rare one and not a very straightforward one to diagnose but we’ve been very fortunate that some of the leading thinkers in the world are actually based in Nottingham.”
The centre has helped children like Aiden since 1997 and brings together a team of leading experts in a number of different fields.
Professor Donald Macathur, a neurosurgeon at the University, said: “It’s enormously rewarding to be part of the often difficult journey for these children.
“I’m often involved at the beginning when I do the operation that makes the diagnosis of their tumour type and where possible removes as much of that tumour.
“I often become involved again if they need to have further surgery or if I can help with giving some of the treatments.
“It’s enormously humbling to see the courage with which they face often very difficult journeys through what can be very prolonged and very difficult treatments.”
For some families the impact of brain tumours is devastating.
Halim Mjeshtri lost his son Alfie to a brain tumour in 2011 but attended the launch to show support for research that can help save lives in the future.
He said: “I know it’s not going to help Alfie but I want other people to be helped, unfortunately it’s not easy to get rid of this brain tumour but with hard work, hopefully one day.
“They have helped us a lot and now it is time for us to help.”
For more information about the centre and to donate to its appeal, visit the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre website.