An inspirational mum who learned to walk again after being diagnosed with a brain tumour weeks after her daughter’s birth is now set to run the London Marathon.
In 2015, former civil servant Marie Garnett said goodbye to her husband and newborn daughter Amelia after being diagnosed with a benign meningioma brain tumour less than six weeks after giving birth.
The 45-year-old had suffered from severe headaches for seven years, which had become unmanageable after Amelia’s birth, and also developed dizziness and loss of balance in the days leading up to her diagnosis.
Mum-of-one Marie was rushed to The Walton Centre, where she spent more than a month as she underwent three brain surgeries, the longest of which lasted eight hours, before battling meningitis – all while trying to be a new mum from her hospital bed.
The trained counsellor also discovered she had a Chiari malformation, where the brain pushes down into the spinal cord, and hydrocephalus, a build-up of fluid on the brain, as a result of the golf ball-sized tumour.
After her life-saving operations, Marie needed several days of physiotherapy to be able to stand on her own, and it was weeks before she could properly walk again.
But remarkably, the tenacious fundraiser is now running the virtual London Marathon from her home in Haydock, St Helens, and hopes to raise at least £300 for Liverpool cause, The Brain Charity.
“The night before my first brain surgery, I said goodbye to Amelia and my husband Darren. When Darren went to the toilet, I whispered to Amelia, ‘look after your daddy’. After the operation, I struggled to walk, but I did it.
“At first, it took two physios to get me from my bed to the nurses’ station, and when I first left hospital, I could only do 300 steps per day – even just going to the shops was exhausting.
“But I kept pushing my boundaries. I appreciate my legs and the ability to use them every single day because some people with neurological conditions are not as lucky.
“So what better way to celebrate life, beautiful and miraculous brains and legs by completing the Virtual London Marathon.
“I’ve never run a marathon – everyone thinks I’m crazy, but everyone knows I’ll be able to do it. My plan is to run as much of it as I can, but I am happy to walk or crawl too.
“I have chosen to support The Brain Charity as they provided me with invaluable counselling for free, which helped me put the pieces of my brain back together.”
Marie will have 24 hours to complete the 26.2 miles on a course of her choice.
While this will be her first marathon, she is used to cycling and walking long distances and has also lost four and a half stone since her diagnosis, going from a size 26 to a size 12-14.
The Brain Charity supports people with all forms of neurological conditions from anywhere in the UK.
Marie was also keen to support their cause as her daughter Amelia, now six, was diagnosed with severe learning disabilities before her first birthday; she has global development delay, epilepsy and is non-verbal.
Marie and her husband Darren do not know whether Marie having a brain tumour during her pregnancy may have caused these conditions, as so far, genetic testing has not given them answers.
Marie still has hydrocephalus and needs a VP shunt, a medical device that relieves pressure on the brain by reducing the accumulated fluid, meaning she could need more emergency brain surgery at any point.
Marie, who is now a full-time carer for Amelia, said:
“The way things happened to our family – you literally couldn’t write it. Who has triple brain surgery, and then it turns out their daughter has a neurological condition too?
“But in a way, we’re grateful as everything we went through with my brain made us stronger to be able to help Amelia.
“She, too, struggled to walk but did it – she does so many things we never thought she might be able to do, and she brings us so much joy every day.”
Every year, Marie and her family celebrate her ‘tumourversary’. She and her husband Darren go away on the anniversary of her diagnosis and toast to another year of life.
The 45-year-old said The Brain Charity’s counselling sessions were a lifeline in helping her come to terms with not just her own experience but Amelia’s diagnosis too.
Marie was offered counselling, which is free to anyone with a neurological condition, after speaking to The Brain Charity’s staff, who are based at The Walton Centre.
“There was one point where for about 48 hours I was waking up, and I didn’t want to wake up. I was in a dark place. I felt like I was being tortured.
“It was so difficult being away from my baby Amelia, who was at home just six weeks old. But my counsellor was absolutely amazing, it was the best thing I could ever have done. The Brain Charity gave me an incredible gift – it was life-changing and amazingly supportive.
“I needed a specialist who understood neurological conditions – not many people know what a wide-reaching impact they can have on your life.
“The Brain Charity gave me perspective. It taught me to accept ‘this is life’ and that just being able to do the dishes is a gift.”
To sponsor Marie, please visit her fundraising page.
To find out more about The Brain Charity, please visit: https://www.thebraincharity.org.uk/ or search @TheBrainCharity on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.