Young mum with incurable brain tumour: 'This will take my life'

Auction specialist Theo Burrell, 36, is hosting a charity auction to raise money for research into the condition.

A young mum living with an incurable brain tumour is channelling her experience as an auction expert to fundraise for vital research.

Theo Burrell, from Edinburgh, started struggling with debilitating migraines, sickness and eyesight problems at the start of last year.

After six months, she became so unwell that her family took her to A&E in early June 2022. That led to a CT scan with life-changing results.

She told STV News: “[The doctor] said, ‘we’re so sorry – it’s not just a case of migraines, you have a five-centimetre cancerous brain tumour’.

“It’s the sort of thing that you don’t think is going to happen to you, especially not when you’re in your 30s. 

“My son was 18 months old, I’d just got through pregnancy, Covid was starting to ease, and then suddenly I had something really seriously wrong with me, I had cancer.”

The 36-year-old has since been through surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. 

She said: “My last two scans have shown improvement, my residual tumour has shrunk, so that’s been a relief, but as an incurable cancer, and as an aggressive cancer, it’s a grade 4 glioblastoma that I have. 

“I need to be prepared that this is coming back… Ultimately, unless something even more tragic happens, I’m told that this will take my life.”

Theo works as an auction specialist at Lyon and Turnbull in Edinburgh, which today launched Piece of Mind: The Brain Tumour Charity Auction.

Theo’s family, friends and colleagues rallied to drum up support – and the result has been a star-studded line up of luxury getaways and celebrity meetings and gifts. 

Theo is hosting a charity auction with prizes donated by a number of celebrities

Exclusive tickets to the Chris and Rosie Ramsey Show at Wembley Arena, a private session with the “dogfather” Graeme Hall, and a one-off vase hand-crafted by comedian Joe Lycett are on offer in the online auction, which runs until Wednesday, June 21.

And one lucky bidder will walk away with weekend tickets to Latitude Festival, where they will meet Paolo Nutini after his set. The Scottish singer-songwriter has also donated a signed acoustic guitar.

This is Going to Hurt author Adam Kay is offering two tickets to his Edinburgh Fringe show, and a Michelin-starred meal with him before the performance. 

The author, comedian and former doctor, also a friend of Theo’s, is getting involved both as a bidder and a donor.  

He said: “I’m definitely bidding for the amazing vase that Joe Lycett has made, and I’m bidding for, on my nephew’s behalf, Ben Wishaw doing a voice message because I think that’s a good one for a Paddington superfan.”

All proceeds from the online auction will go to The Brain Tumour Charity – the largest dedicated funder of research into the condition. 

Around 12,000 people are diagnosed every year with a primary brain tumour, yet survival rates have barely improved in 40 years.

Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer in children and adults under 40, yet investment in research is low, and there is currently no cure. 

Gina Almond, director of fundraising for The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “We are hugely grateful to Theo and everyone working together on the auction.

“There are some amazing items so kindly donated and the funds raised will make a huge difference to our work to accelerate a cure for brain tumours and double survival and halve the harm they cause.” 

Theo added: “It’s been incredibly important, it’s helped me refocus, it’s certainly been important in my recovery.

“Having the auction coincide with this point in my cancer journey is important too – and it feels a good time to be doing something positive – I’m still here, and we’re raising awareness and raising money for a really important cause.”

You can bid for the prizes at 

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