WHEN Rachael Carter fell ill after returning from a holiday, the last thing she expected to be told was that she had a high-grade brain tumour.

The mum-of-two, from Bassaleg in Newport, had been feeling fatigued and forgetful for a few months, but had put those symptoms down to long hours on the road for work.

Doctors told her the tumour may have been growing for eight years.

Now, after surgery and a gruelling treatment programme - and months spent shielding from coronavirus - Ms Carter and her friends are fundraising to help find a cure for the “cruel and indiscriminate” illness.

Business manager Ms Carter said she first started feeling unwell in early 2019.

“My job involved a lot of driving and being away from home,” she said.

“It was a busy, stressful role, so when I first started suffering with fatigue and headaches in 2019, I thought it was work-related.

“I was also becoming forgetful and was struggling to sleep but it wasn’t until June that year that I realised something much more serious was going on.”

That month, she suffered a seizure shortly after returning home from a trip to Tunisia, during which she “hadn’t felt right”.

She was rushed to Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport and put into an induced coma.

Doctors then found a “shadow” at the front of Ms Carter’s brain, and transferred her to the University of Wales Hospital in Cardiff, where she was diagnosed with an anaplastic astrocytoma brain tumour.

“I was told it may have been growing for anywhere between five and eight years,” she said.

The next few months were an “awful period” for Ms Carter and her family. Her father died days before she was due to have surgery, and Ms Carter struggled to explain her diagnosis to her young children.

“I was made aware from the outset that my prognosis isn’t great - it averages at between two and five years,” she said.

“It’s taken a while for me to be able to talk openly about my illness, but I’m learning to live with it and to try and make the most of the time I have.”


Tragically, Ms Carter had already lost a family friend to brain cancer. Corporal Anthony Hard, an RAF aircraft engineer from Newport, was 36 when he died in 2015.

“He was such a wonderful man whose smile lit up the room,” Ms Carter said of him.

“He left behind his wife Nahella and their two beautiful children. The disease is so cruel and indiscriminate.”

Surgeons were able to remove most of Ms Carter’s tumour, but she has been told it will likely grow back. Following her operation, she was treated with 31 sessions of radiotherapy at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, followed by a seven-month course of chemotherapy last year.

“The radiotherapy made me really poorly,” she said.

"Christmas 2019 was a write off. Chemo made my hair fall out and I suffered from a lot of sickness. I take anti-epilepsy medication, which has fortunately prevented me from having any more seizures.

“One of the worst things for me has been giving up work. Physically and mentally, I’m just not able to do the job I was doing before. Thankfully, the company has been brilliant and I am still employed by them. I’m really grateful for their support.”

When Ms Carter heard her friend, fitness instructor Michelle Huckle, was keen to fundraise for Brain Tumour Research, she was determined to join in.

South Wales Argus: Rachael Carter (left) will be taking part in the fundraiser set up by her friend Michelle Huckle (right). Pictures: Courtesy of the charity Brain Tumour ResearchRachael Carter (left) will be taking part in the fundraiser set up by her friend Michelle Huckle (right). Pictures: Courtesy of the charity Brain Tumour Research

Ms Huckle, from Afon Village, Rogerstone, said she also had other friends who had lost loved ones to brain tumours.

“Knowing the tragedies my friends have suffered, and all that Rachael has been through, spurred me on to fundraise to help find a cure,” she said.

“Rachael’s a great friend and her strength is inspiring. I’m so pleased she’s joining us for the challenge.

“We’re calling ourselves the ‘Brain Brigade’ and we’re hoping to raise as much as we can for this cause, close to our hearts.”

Ms Huckle’s challenge has attracted 169 participants and has already raised £2,450. To donate to Brain Tumour Research via the Brain Brigade fundraising page, visit: justgiving.com/team/Brainbrig

Ms Carter said: “I met Michelle 10 years ago when I was doing one of her Zumba classes. When she approached me about fundraising for Brain Tumour Research, I was delighted to get involved.

“I’m aiming to complete 10,000 steps a day, which will be a challenge but hopefully achievable, as I’m trying to build up my fitness again after treatment.”

She added: “Taking on this challenge will provide me with some much-needed focus and it’s something really positive to get stuck into, all while raising money for this hugely important cause.”