Sunderland sisters keep mum's memory alive to raise brain tumour awareness

Sisters who lost their beloved mum to a brain tumour have joined forces with a national charity to raise awareness of the condition.

Tuesday, 7th March 2017, 5:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:09 am
Sisters Lisa Atkinson and Louise Bircham

Almost a year since Lorna Atkinson’s death, her daughters Louise Bircham, 36, and Lisa Atkinson, 35, are working alongside national charity Brain Tumour Research to highlight the condition in Brain Tumour Awareness Month which takes place this month.

Following the East Herrington mum’s death in March last year, the sisters set up The Lorn’s Legacy and have so far raised more than £5,000 for research into the condition.

Lorna with grandchildren Cameron, Adam and Jessica

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They’ve taken part in a number of fundraising activities, with Lisa taking on the Tokyo Marathon last month and gearing up for the London Marathon next month. Just weeks after losing Lorna last year, the sisters took part in an emotional park run in Saltwell Park for the cause, and they’ll be doing the same again this year on the anniversary of their mum’s death on March 25.

Louise, from Houghton, say they hope sharing their story can help highlight the ‘chronic under funding’ of research into the disease.

Lorna had been a fit and healthy grandma when she was diagnosed with a high grade tumour in September 2014, after having what was initially diagnosed as a mini-stroke. The family were told that Lorna had a 12 to 18 month life expectancy if she went ahead with surgery, or just three months without.

Louise said: “It was a huge shock to be told that the diagnosis was a brain tumour, and it was the most aggressive kind you could get. Even the neurosurgeon couldn’t understand how she hadn’t had any symptoms previously.

Lorna Atkinson who lost her battle with a brain tumour last year

“Mam had a craniotomy at the end of September 2014, when doctors were able to remove most of the tumour.

“She then underwent rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy which made her quite poorly and the steroids she had to take to reduce the swelling gave her deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Nevertheless, despite the complications, mam went back to being her normal happy, chatty self, enjoying spending time with her family and many friends. She retained her amazing sense of humour, posing and showing off her impressive craniotomy scar.”

By February last year Lorna’s condition had taken a turn for the worse and she lost her battle with the disease the following month, aged 69, with her family and partner Harry by her side.

Louise said: “The options were so limited for mam which is why we are supporting Brain Tumour Research – it’s too late for Lorna, but we want other families with loved ones diagnosed with brain tumours in the future to have the comfort that more effective treatments have been identified and ultimately a cure found for this devastating disease.”

Lorna with grandchildren Cameron, Adam and Jessica

The Lorn’s Legacy is working under the umbrella of national charity Brain Tumour Research to highlight the fact that brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet just 1per cent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to the disease.

The sisters are encouraging people to take part in the UK-wide fundraising event, Wear A Hat Day on Friday, March 31.

Wear A Hat Day will see schools, workplaces, families and individuals across the UK fundraising and taking part in hat-themed fun events to raise awareness of brain tumours and help fund life-saving research.

If you have been inspired by Lorna’s story you can donate via

Lorna Atkinson who lost her battle with a brain tumour last year