Co. Derry widower to raise funds for The Brain Tumour Charity

James Calwell with his wife Mary who died in December 2018, just 12 months after she was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
James Calwell with his wife Mary who died in December 2018, just 12 months after she was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

A Limavady widower who lost his wife of almost 50 years to a brain tumour has vowed to help spare others from similar heartbreak by raising funds in her memory.

Mary Calwell died in December last year, just over 12 months after she was diagnosed with the tumour.

Now her husband James is preparing to take part in a fundraising walk in support of The Brain Tumour Charity, which invests globally in research into brain tumours as well as providing support and information to those affected by the disease.

James, who taught at Limavady Grammar School for over 30 years, has already raised almost £1,500 of his £3,000 target.

He said he wanted to help The Brain Tumour Charity make a difference for families like his own following his wife’s shocking diagnosis.

Mary, a former assistant at St Patrick’s College, Dungiven and chair of a local women’s gym, began to experience symptoms in late 2017.

She consulted her GP and was quickly referred for a CT scan which led to the devastating news that she had a grade 4 glioblastoma – the most aggressive type of brain tumour in adults.

“Looking back, I don’t think the enormity of that diagnosis fully hit home,” James said. “As a family, we kept positive and hoped that something could be done.”

Mary had surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, but as the months went by, Mary’s health deteriorated until in September last year she was temporarily admitted to Foyle Hospice.

Although unable to walk and using a wheelchair, Mary insisted on trying to walk again. Each day she would take a few small steps, assisted by her family, and after two weeks in the hospice the doctors allowed her home.

“The district nurse team leader described her as the most determined woman she had ever met,” James said.

Mary spent her last Christmas at home surrounded by her family, including the couple’s four children and 11 grandchildren, and died on New Year’s Eve last year.

James said: “Mary was unique – strong, determined, feisty, brave and loyal. I miss her greatly, as do all the family. Some broken things just can’t be fixed but one thing that helps is the love and support we can show one another when the chips are down.

“That’s why I’m taking part in The Twilight Walk in October to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity, to help them fund research into brain tumours and provide support for everyone affected by this awful disease.”

Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Our hearts go out to Mary’s family, whose loss is a stark reminder that brain tumours strike indiscriminately and with devastating impact. We are immensely grateful to James for his support and his commitment to helping others like him, whose lives are changed forever by a brain tumour diagnosis.”

You can donate to James’ fundraising appeal via https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jamescalwell

The Twilight Walk takes place in Edinburgh, Warwick and Windsor on dates between September 29 and October 13. You can also hold your own walk in support of The Brain Tumour Charity. For more information, go to https://www.thebraintumourcharity.org/get-involved/thetwilightwalk/