Sunderland man battling brain tumour launches charity after defying doctors’ odds

Graydon Downs with wife Claire.
Graydon Downs with wife Claire.

A Sunderland cancer sufferer who defied doctors to stay alive credits a positive attitude to coping with terminal illness.

Graydon Downs, 39, was diagnosed with the most severe brain tumour – a ‘grade 4’ glioblastoma (GBM) – and told he had about two years to live almost six years ago.

Graydon Downs's brain tumour, which he has nicknamed Toby.

Graydon Downs's brain tumour, which he has nicknamed Toby.

Medical experts say that those with such aggressive tumours have only a small chance of survival, and Brain Tumour Research reports that the average life expectancy is only 12–18 months with treatment.

But Graydon refused to give up on life - and even defiantly gave his tumour its own nickname.

Graydon, who lives with wife Claire, 41, a solicitor, in Hall Farm Road, said: “It’s a 5% chance that you’ll get another five years, it’s pretty small for this group.

“I’m one of the lucky ones, but it’s still terminal.

You get eight to 10 weeks’ notice – I don’t buy green bananas any more

Graydon Downs

“You don’t go into remission, you can have a period of feeling relatively well, but it always comes back.

“Hopefully if it gets worse, I’ll just have chemo again, or it could come back somewhere and be inoperable.

“It just makes any kind of planning hard.

“You get eight to 10 weeks’ notice. I don’t buy green bananas any more!”

The Three Tumours - Dan, Ian and Graydon.

The Three Tumours - Dan, Ian and Graydon.

Graydon, who used to work in commercial marketing in Atlanta said his sense of humour is helping him cope. He even took part in the Great North Run, raising money for Headcase, and set up a fundraising page called ‘Toby Must Die’ – Toby being the name he gave to his tumour.

“I’ve always had quite a dark sense of humour and it’s probably got worse,” he said.

“It’s probably quite difficult for some people to understand, but it doesn’t help anyone to wallow because you’ve been dealt a bad hand.

“It won’t help the people around me, my wife, my parents or my friends. It can be quite a lonely place for them.

“So, I think it’s important to have a positive attitude and be as supportive as possible to everybody.”

Graydon also takes comfort from raising money and awareness to help others.

He has joined two other men diagnosed with brain tumours to form charity The Three Tumours, to raise money towards vital research. They are Ian Hardy from Gateshead, and Dan Howard from Newcastle.

The trio will kick-start their charity mission with a walk along Hadrian’s Wall next month, because less than 2% of money raised for cancer research is spent on finding a cure for brain tumours.

He said: “At the current rate, it will take 100 years to fund care and we feel more must be done to fund education and research.

“GBM is only one type of tumour and we all believe we can’t just sit back.

“We want to help signpost people to find the right help through The Three Tumours.

“We want to raise as much money as possible and would love to smash the £50,000 target.

“The more research carried out will mean more people have a better chance of survival.”

The intrepid trio believe they will conquer their health issues when they take on the challenge to walk 84 miles along Hadrian’s Wall next month.

From April 25 to May 2, the men will be joined by fellow survivor Richard Stewart and paramedic Vincent Mccluskey for the trek from Bowness-in-Solway to Wallsend.

Graydon added: “We all have our own issues, even if we don’t look like it. But we are all there to support each other and we’re delighted that Vincent will join us.”

The cash raised will be donated to The Brain Tumour Charity, Brain Tumour Research and Brains Trust.

For more information or to donate, visit