Southwick hairdresser selected as Young Ambassador with The Brain Tumour Charity
Inspired by her late grandad, Alice Sutton wants to help other families going through similar heartache in her new role.
Alice, 21, is raising awareness around brain tumours, which the charity say are the biggest cancer killer of children and young adults in the UK, in her new role as a Young Ambassador.
Alice, who trained as a hairdresser at The Metropolitan, Brighton, lost her grandad to brain cancer when she was just 12-years-old and now wants to help people feel less alone in their grief.
Her grandad, Reg Fitch, died in June 2021, less than a year after he was diagnosed with a glioblastoma - the most common aggressive brain tumour in adults in the UK.
Alice said: “My sister Amie was a Young Ambassador for The Brain Tumour Charity and she inspired me as she did so many brilliant things. When she told me they were looking for a new group of ambassadors, I applied and was thrilled when I was accepted on to the two-year programme.
“I want to help raise awareness about brain tumours and possible symptoms as when grandad was diagnosed, we didn’t know anything about them. Amie and I were really close to him and we both want to help others in his memory.”
In July 2011, Brighton & Hove supporter Reg, who lived in Bevendean with wife Jean, suffered headaches and then started getting sick. He went to his GP and was told to head straight to A&E at Sussex County Hospital.
The family were devastated when an MRI scan on July 28, 2011, revealed that he had a brain tumour. Reg had surgery within the week and biopsy results revealed it was a glioblastoma.
After surgery, Reg had six weeks’ radiotherapy and seven months chemotherapy. His tumour grew back and he had another operation in April 2012. He went into care at the Martlets Hospice, Hove, where he died on June 18, 2012.
Alice, reflecting back on that time, said: “Mum told us that grandad was very unwell and that he would lose his hair to prepare us.
“It’s all a bit of a blur but something that has always stuck in my mind is being pulled out of class. When I walked out and saw Mum I knew straight away that my grandad died.
“I think as I so young when he died, I bottled up my grief for years and it’s only now I’m beginning to really process my feelings.
“I would like to help others feel less alone in their grief.”
Eve Kelleher, The Brain Tumour Charity’s head of services, said: “We are so proud to have Alice as one of our 21 new Young Ambassadors - and are sure her grandad would be proud of her, too. They play such a crucial role in helping us to raise awareness about brain tumours – the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40 in the UK.
“Our Young Ambassadors, aged 18-25, are either living with brain tumours themselves or have loved ones affected by the brutal disease. They will be a powerful voice for the charity sharing their stories, campaigning and representing us at events to amplify our message: A Cure Can’t Wait.”
Alice is backing The Brain Tumour Charity’s world-first UK trail of cannabis-based drug, Sativex, in treating glioblastoma. The charity say that the drug is set to be launched at 15 NHS hospitals following promising results from a phase I study in 27 patients.
In August, The Brain Tumour Charity launched an appeal to raise £450,000 for a clinical trial which could extend the lives of people affected by glioblastoma.
The ground-breaking campaign – spearheaded by Olympic gold medallist Tom Daley whose dad, Robert, died from brain cancer in 2011 – raised £400,000 in just three months, which means the trial is scheduled to go ahead in March.
It will assess whether adding Sativex, an oral spray containing cannabinoids THC and CBD currently used to treat MS, to chemotherapy could extend life for thousands of people who are diagnosed with a recurrent glioblastoma brain tumour.
Alice said: “It was so hard accepting that there was nothing that could be done for Grandad. It’s brilliant that this new research gives a glimmer of hope for other people diagnosed with glioblastoma.
“Grandad got very ill quite quickly. He couldn’t cut up his dinner as he as struggling to use a knife and fork and I remember him getting a new bike and not being able to keep his balance on it.”
But happy memories of her fun-loving grandad give her comfort.
Alice said: “My grandad was just lovely with a daft sense of humour. He was a keen walker and Mum, Amie and I tagged along.
“Every so often, he’d stop and get his binoculars out as he loved birds and would tell us what they were called. As we walked along, we’d chat and he’d ask us what we were up to at school.
“We had a family tradition that every year on his birthday, October 6, we went for a walk which started at Pyecombe, up to Wolstonbury Hill, then across to New Timber Woods and down to Poynings for lunch, after two or three hours.
“After Grandad died, we spread some of his ashes at Wolstonbury Hill and we kept up the tradition of a walk on his birthday as it was a special way to remember him as we shared our memories.”
Fast forward 10 years, Alice felt the time was right to use her experience to help others facing similar heartbreak.
She is now planning a gaming fundraiser in March which is Brain Tumour Awareness Month (BTAM) – The 64 Games For Grandad – when she’ll play 64 games of Fortnite, the age her grandad was when he died, to raise vital funds for The Brain Tumour Charity.