A family from Caerphilly are donning their cycling helmets as they prepare to take on a festive bike ride to raise money for Brain Tumour Research, after their loved one died from the deadly disease.
Father-of-three and keen cyclist Gwilym Llewellyn, 51, from Hengoed in Caerphilly, died on 16 May, just nine weeks after he was diagnosed with a grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma. His widow, Cerian, 49, and three daughters, Shannon, 25, Jess, 19 and Liv, 14, will take on the 14-mile route from the village of Penpedairheol to Bedlinog and back on 15 December as part of Brain Tumour Research’s Wear A Christmas Hat Day.
Gwilym, a manager at Energybuild Ltd in Glynneath, Neath, first attributed his severe headaches to completing a course of pain relief medication after he broke his femur in a cycling accident in August 2020.
A routine optician appointment in December that year showed a ‘beauty spot’ behind his eye. He attended a private follow-up appointment at Spire Hospital in Cardiff, where the consultant told Gwilym he had no concerns and to come back in a year’s time.
In the meantime, however, Gwilym had to go back to hospital after suffering from a continuous headache and vomiting. He was treated for dehydration and sent home.
In February 2021, he went to his GP as he was getting no better and they did some blood tests, which didn’t provide any cause for concern either. He had another appointment with the GP, who prescribed him medication for muscular pain. Then, on Mother’s Day, Gwilym had a seizure and was rushed to Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, where an MRI revealed a mass on his front lobe and he was transferred to Heath Hospital in Cardiff for emergency brain surgery.
Doctors removed most of the tumour, however, the pressure on his brain caused Gwilym to lose his sight. He developed many infections and doctors deemed his body too weak to handle any further treatment. He had another seizure and went into a coma, unable to communicate with Cerian and his daughters.
Cerian, a secretary at Roma Roofing Supplies, said: “He spent nine weeks in hospital and because of the infections, he had five operations in total. This happened during the COVID-19 lockdown which meant I could only visit him twice when restrictions were starting to lift. Then again while he was in a coma, during the last two weeks of his life. It was horrible to think of him all those weeks there on his own. The first couple of weeks, we spoke a few times on the phone he was always in good spirits, and the whole time he couldn’t see a thing and never questioned it.”
This will be the family’s first Christmas without their beloved ‘Gwil’ and they are keen to use this time to honour his memory through his most-loved hobby.
Cerian, who has already raised more than £5,000 by taking part in the charity’s Cycle 274 Miles in August challenge, said: “Gwil was part of a few different cycling groups and at his funeral in June the club members lined the streets in their cycling gear and bikes to pay their respects. – some even joined the procession. The Union Cycliste Ystrad Mynach (UCY) Club has set up an award in his name, the ‘Col De Gwil Trophy’, which will be given to the person who hill climbs in the fastest time. That shows you how loved he was within the community.”
Joining the family will be Gwilym’s siblings, Lisa, 46, Beth, 55 and Adam, 48, as well as close friends and neighbours, all hopping on their bikes dressed in Brain Tumour Research pink Santa hats on top of their helmets to raise awareness of the disease.
Cerian said: “Gwilym was well known for his love of pink when cycling. Pink jersey, socks, helmet. He even bought a women’s Rapha jersey as it was bright pink, that was his favourite colour, so we’re excited to be honouring him in this way too. No one should have to experience what Gwil went through. A brain tumour devastated our family, I want to fundraise so others don’t have to go through the same.”
Mel Tiley, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “We’re so sorry to hear that Gwilym died from this awful disease. Cerian and her family are incredibly generous through their fundraising efforts and we wish them all the best for their forthcoming bike ride. I’d encourage everyone to sign up to Wear A Christmas Hat Day to join the festive fundraising this December.”
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.
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.
To support Cerian and her family on her Wear A Hat Day bike ride please visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Cerian-Llewellyn1