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If only brain tumour research could be funded in the same way as leukaemia and other cancers

Garry Christian on why he supports Brain Tumour Research

Garry Christian in Brain Tumour Research topper for Wear A Hat DayThirty years after their double-platinum debut album, Liverpool band The Christians – famous for hits like “Forgotten Town”, “Ideal World” and “Born Again” – are coming to Milton Keynes for a sold-out gig at The Stables tonight.

Singer Garry Christian has been a supporter of Brain Tumour Research since his brother and former bandmate, Roger, died from a brain tumour. Garry is urging people to get behind Wear A Hat Day on Friday 31st March.

In 1998 Garry’s brother, Roger, lost his life. He speaks movingly of this loss and why he supports Brain Tumour Research:

Roger was my elder brother, there was five years between us, and in many ways I looked up to him. We came from a big family, eight brothers and six sisters, but Roger and I were particularly close. We were a really musical family, singing acapella together, and we always had music on in the house, especially The Temps (Temptations), The Beatles, and Ray Charles. Roger and I sung together in The Christians (before that he was in a band called The Gems with my eldest brother Denny) I’ve never known a voice like it, he could hit all the notes and I wished I had his range – his voice was effortless, really special. During our time as The Christians in the 80s along with our other brother Russell, we were together every day … one day we’d be laughing the next fighting. He used to cut people down with his wit which made some pretty interesting interviews!

In 1995 I moved to Paris to write and record a solo album ‘Your Cool Mystery’ and it was during this time that Roger became ill. He told me he had a killer headache, the worst headache imaginable and was in terrible pain. He’d gone to the doctors, and eventually had the diagnosis of a terminal brain tumour. For me one of the worst things was seeing Roger’s sense of humour diminish. To some extent it defined him, he was caustically funny and we bonded over shared jokes. As his personality changed over the six months before he passed away, I lost the Roger I knew.

I came back from Paris at various times to see him, but he was quite ill and I found it painful to see how he was slipping away from the music he loved and his much loved partner Ingrid and children, Lucy and Oliver (now in their 20s). The word ‘terminal’ hung over me, it seems strange to say, but looking back I can see I didn’t really recover from the shock of his diagnosis and I retreated into myself as a way of coping, rather than making the most of the time we had left together.

I chose not to know all the details of his treatment and how the tumour was affecting him, I just wanted to know the Roger I knew, not the Roger with the tumour. But he told me it was the size of a golf ball, situated above his ear. He took the news bravely and from then on prepared himself for the end of his life, even planning where he wanted to be buried. It seemed to be the worst thing that could have happened to him or indeed anyone. In the same shoes, I just don’t know what I’d have done. He was treated at Clatterbridge Hospital, in the Wirral, but towards the end he opted to go home, and died in his own bed on 8th March 1998.

To this day I have questions about the treatment Roger had and question whether more could have been done to save his life. It was so tragic to have seen the diagnosis of ‘terminal’ given to my brother and all avenues of hope closed off so swiftly. Like many I am concerned why research into brain tumours isn’t moving on at the speed it should be; I want someone to tell me that what happened to Roger couldn’t and wouldn’t happen today, but no one can give me that assurance. Brain tumours appear to be a forgotten cancer – except by families whose lives they devastate.

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