October 21, 2016, by Emma Rayner
Brain tumour patient Jessica Simpkin tells her story to BBC Inside Out
On the eve of International Brain Tumour Awareness Week, BBC Inside Out East Midlands tonight tells the story of Jessica Simpkin who is helping our Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre ‘Halve the Harm’ of brain tumour treatment.
When Jessica was diagnosed with a malignant and aggressive brain tumour aged 4, the odds of her survival were extremely low. Early warning signs of chronic headaches and sickness were mistaken for migraines. Now Jess has made a film about her latest treatment for 5 brain tumours to raise awareness to stop other people from going through what she’s experienced.
BBC Inside Out East Midlands follows Jessica on her biggest challenge yet in a programme which is being broadcast at 7.30pm this evening, Friday 21st October.
Jessica says: “I want to help people who have had tumours and are going to get them so they get diagnosed earlier and don’t go through what I have”
At 4 years old Jess who’s from Rainworth in North Nottinghamshire, was part of an international trial into combined chemo and radiotherapy. Paediatric Oncologist Professor David Walker of Nottingham’s Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre says they now know it was that 7 weeks of radioactive exposure which caused the tumours Jessica continues to have. He says “I think Jessica’s case highlights that having a brain tumour is not a walk in the park. If we can halve the harm of our tumour treatments it would be a huge step forward. We’ve already improved cure rates”.
500 children a year are diagnosed with brain tumours in the UK, 70 percent will now survive. For Jess who’s now 29, conventional surgery is no longer an option after operations as a child and in her teens. Going back into her brain could cause more damage and risk the strokes she has already begun to have.
The Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield is the National Centre for Gamma Knife Radiosurgery. Consultant Neurosurgeon Mr Dev Bhattacharyya says “We know the tumours are growing and we know we have to treat them now because radiation induced tumours in someone young will just keep growing. This is the only treatment we can try. The treatment is focussed, doesn’t touch the rest of the brain but only targets those bit of tumour.”
Jessica says: “There’s no guarantee this will kill them. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”
The film follows Jessica and her family as they prepare for the treatment, learn about the risks involved and even makes plans for her funeral.
Jo French, Jessica’s mum says: “It’s the hardest thing handing over your daughter but hopefully she will wake up and be fine”.
BBC Producer Marie Ashby says: “Working with Jessica and her family was a privilege. It is such a serious subject and it is so important to raise awareness. Jessica does this with humour and a sense of fun which is truly inspirational”.
Jessica Simpkin has raised £23 thousand pounds so far for the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre at the Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham. You can find her Justgiving page at
An iplayer link for the BBC Inside Out film will be made available about an hour following broadcast at 7.30 on BBC 1 Friday 21st October. It is available on iplayer for 30 days after which time it would not be covered by BBC copyright agreements.
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