‘I want this gone’: rider and horse whose lives were both changed by brain tumours take on marathon challenge

  • A horse and rider whose lives were both changed for ever by brain tumours are taking on a marathon challenge to help find a cure.

    Jenny Jones and Bertie, a four-year-old Shire/warmblood gelding, are to complete the Brain Tumour Research challenge of “jogging” 26.2 miles in May to raise funds.

    Jenny Jones’s son Calum was 19 when he was diagnosed with the condition in 2013. Jenny had already decided to take on the challenge when she found out that Bertie’s previous owner, who was also his breeder, had died owing to a brain tumour.

    Jenny told H&H Bertie was taken in by Rose McRae Equine Services in Monmuthshire and is on permanent loan to her.

    “I didn’t know what had happened until I told them about this challenge and they couldn’t believe it,” she said. “It’s too much of a coincidence.”

    Calum was diagnosed with a grade 1 glioma in January 2013 while he was studying motor mechanics at Brecon Beacons College.

    Jenny, who has worked in nursing for 39 years, said: “Being in the healthcare profession helped me understand Calum’s diagnosis but it didn’t make it any easier to accept. It’s a tricky balance trying to remain his mum, but also knowing the medical side of things too.”

    Jenny said Calum, now 28, has undergone surgery twice but owing to its location, the tumour is inoperable.

    “His tumour is a low grade but it’s still there,” she said. “After his diagnosis, Calum suffered from low mood and on his 25th birthday he had three grand mal seizures. From that point, something in him changed and he decided to go back to college; his outlook became much more positive.

    “He struggled through, finished his motor mechanics course and then stayed on at college. He’s just finishing his first year in an engineering degree at university and I’m so, so proud of him.”

    Jenny has already completed a 10km run in aid of Brain Tumour Research.

    Donate on her online page

    “I want this thing gone,” she said. “I know there are so many things out there and there are the big things like breast and prostate cancer, and this doesn’t really come on to people’s radar, understandably. To me, it’s personal. Calum’s tumour could change to a grade three or four at any time, and the more money raised, the more they can research into getting rid of it.”

    Bertie, who was born in June 2018, is 17hh. He has been started but Jenny is to walk the 26.2 miles with him on foot, leading or long-reining.

    “I’m taking things very slowly with him as he’s so big so I thought we could do it together,” she said. “He’s such a dude. He’d hardly been handled when I first saw him  and he’s had some issues, but he’s a really nice person and will be a lovely, lovely horse.

    “Calum’s a bit ‘Oh Mum’, about the challenge but I think he’s secretly pleased. I think he feels a bit cheated out of some of the formative parts of his life, and he’s got this for the rest of his life. He’s been knocked down and got up again, he’s done incredibly well but he’s still got this thing. I’m doing this to raise money for research and maybe one day there will be a machine that can zap it or something. You’ve got to give it a go.”

    Calum now has three-yearly MRI scans to monitor the tumour and his last scan in October showed it is stable.

    Mel Tiley, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research, said: “Calum’s story is a stark reminder of how indiscriminate brain tumours are, affecting anyone at any age, yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease. We’re determined to change this and are so grateful for the support of people like Jenny whose fundraising efforts enable us to continue funding vital research and to, ultimately, find a cure.”

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