Tuesday, 5 March 2024
Tuesday, 5 March 2024

Milton Keynes charity appoints new director with personal connection to the cause

A new charity director from Buckinghamshire was inspired to join the organisation, as her niece is living with the life-changing effects of a brain tumour.

Andrea Abbis, 55, has been appointed as Director of Marketing and Communications at Brain Tumour Research, based in Shenley Wood, Milton Keynes. Andrea, from Stony Stratford, joined the national charity earlier this month and oversees the marketing, digital marketing, and PR & communications teams, working to increase the charity’s profile, raise awareness, maximise engagement and inspire supporters.

Andrea’s motivation is her 33-year-old niece, Leanne Cullen, from Worksop in Nottinghamshire. Leanne, who works for a household goods supplier, was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma brain tumour in 2011. She received the devastating diagnosis after suffering from severe headaches.

Andrea said: 

“Leanne had a battle getting a diagnosis. She’d been experiencing really painful headaches for some time and went back and forth to her GP to try and get some answers, but she was just referred for eye tests.

“Through sheer perseverance, Leanne was eventually referred for a scan, which revealed a low-grade tumour, and she was quickly sent for Gamma Knife treatment at the National Centre for Stereotactic Radiosurgery in Sheffield.”

Unfortunately, Leanne’s treatment was unsuccessful and caused further complications. She was left with partial facial paralysis, nerve damage, hearing loss and problems with her eyes. At the age of 27, she was diagnosed with Addison’s disease, a rare disorder of the adrenal glands.

Milton Keynes charity appoints new director with personal connection to the cause
Leanne Cullen

Andrea said: 

“Leanne can’t be sure that her brain tumour treatment caused the Addison’s disease, but clinicians think it’s a distinct possibility.

“She continued to live with the tumour for several years, then, at the age of 30, she began suffering from dizziness and headaches, and an annual scan revealed it had grown. She had to undergo a gruelling craniotomy at Salford Royal Hospital. They managed to remove the tumour, but things didn’t go entirely smoothly, and she suffered complications, contracting meningitis and spending several weeks in hospital. She had to have several lumbar drains fitted whilst in hospital and multiple lumbar punctures over the next 12 months to relieve the pressure in her head, as the meningitis had caused intracranial hypertension and eventually a permanent peritoneal shunt was fitted.”

Leanne is still scanned every year and continues to live with the life-altering effects of her acoustic neuroma.

Andrea said: 

“Although this devastating disease robbed Leanne of normality in her twenties, in many ways, she’s one of the lucky ones. We are grateful that her tumour was treatable and relieved that she is doing really well now, despite still living with the impact of her disease. We are so proud of her and how she has coped.”

Prior to joining the charity sector, Andrea gained extensive experience in the retail sector, holding senior commercial and marketing roles at Debenhams, Sainsbury’s and Argos. 

She said: 

“I’ve enjoyed a successful career in the corporate world, but now, having seen what Leanne has been through, I am hoping that by joining Brain Tumour Research, I can make a difference by helping to raise the awareness of this terrible disease so that the right level of support is invested and a cure can be found.

“When I told Leanne about the job, she was really pleased. It’s a really exciting time to be joining the charity. Its mission to increase the UK investment in brain tumour research is very clear, and everyone is aligned with that mission. The organisation’s values underpin their vision of finding a cure for brain tumours, and I’ve already seen the way in which my colleagues exhibit those values. I’m looking forward to playing my part in bringing hope to brain tumour patients and their loved ones.”

Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet historically, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

Sue Farrington Smith MBE, Chief Executive at Brain Tumour Research, said: 

“Andrea brings with her a wealth of invaluable experience, and we are delighted to welcome her into the team and look forward to working with her.

“We were so very sorry to hear about all Leanne has been through. Andrea’s very personal connection to the cause will no doubt reinforce her determination to make a positive impact as we continue to strive towards our vision of finding a cure for brain tumours.”

Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure. The charity is calling for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.


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