Top showman awaits surgery for aggressive brain tumour

  • Popular working hunter specialist Rory Gilsenan, 49, has been discharged from hospital while he awaits life-saving surgery following diagnosis of an aggressive tumour on his brain.

    Despite having initially shown no symptoms other than a mild confusion when speaking, Rory was diagnosed last week (22 November) and was admitted to the John Radcliffe (JR) hospital, Oxford.

    Rory, who won for the first time at Horse of the Year Show this year and was champion at Royal Windsor, began to show signs of a problem the previous week, but a doctor put it down to stress following the recent death of his great friend, showjumper Tim Stockdale.

    But when his condition deteriorated following an afternoon’s go-karting, Rory’s wife Vanessa began researching on the internet.

    “If it hadn’t been for the fact that he suddenly got worse — and information I found online — we might not have thought of insisting on a second opinion from a specialist,” said Vanessa.

    “That was when we were told about the cancer and that the tumour is in a difficult location, but he has responded so well to medication to reduce the swelling that the surgeons are confident they will be able to remove most of it.

    “He is due to undergo surgery in around two weeks’ time, after which he will have a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

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    Vanessa continued: “While he was in hospital he kept everyone entertained and in fits of laughter — he’s now doing the same at home and at the yard; his aim is to complete a hat-trick next year and win at Royal Windsor, Hickstead and HOYS; the specialist has said he stands a very good chance as he is incredibly fit and strong.

    “We have had literally hundreds of calls and messages of support — even several from complete strangers — which have meant so much to both of us. We can’t thank everyone enough.

    “Obviously it has come as the most terrible shock to the whole family, but the important thing is to stay positive. We have been greatly helped with this by messages from other people who have had similar experiences and come out the other side.”

    In addition to riding in the show ring, Rory is well-known as a judge, producer, trainer and ‘locator’ of horses. He has won at every major show in the country, including standing champion twice at the Royal International.

    For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

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