Ciara Litchfield, 27, will be running the Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday 13 October in aid of The National Brain Appeal, after her best friend was diagnosed with a brain tumour two years ago.
Born two weeks apart in the village of Oakley, Bedfordshire, Ciara and Hannah King have been close friends for 28 years.
Their fathers also grew up together, bestowing upon them a ‘Litchfield-King’ stigma, which resulted in Ciara and Hannah never being allowed to sit next to each other in class.
Ciara recalled the life-changing moment she found out Hannah was diagnosed with a brain tumour, “I was staying in a guest house in Luang Probang in Laos, as I was part way through an 18-month trip travelling and working overseas.
“Hannah sent me a Whatsapp message saying that she didn’t want me to worry, but she had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and had already undergone surgery to remove most of it and was fitted with a shunt to help manage any fluid that could build up on the brain.”
Unknown to Ciara, Hannah and Ciara’s mother were aware of her diagnosis before she went travelling yet refrained from telling her as they didn’t want it to ruin her trip.
Whilst Ciara was shocked, she remembered Hannah suffering from severe migraines for a while, “She would often mention her headaches, but we both put it down to being stressed at work or tiredness.
“Generally, I feel people who work in London are stressed most of the time, but at 25 years old you definitely don’t jump to ‘brain tumour’ when your friends complain about their headaches.”
Hannah’s migraines became more frequent, often causing her to vomit and her vision to become blurred.
The tumour was diagnosed in the initial scan at A&E, where Hannah’s manager had sent her after she suffered from a severe migraine. “She was sent straight to surgery where most of the tumour was removed, yet some parts of it were too dangerous to operate on. Hannah then had a shunt fitted (a tiny tube that allows fluid to drain from the brain into the stomach.)”
Ciara was struck with both anger and sadness following the diagnosis: “I was angry at myself that I wasn’t there for her, angry for being a terrible friend as I hadn’t noticed anything was wrong, a bit angry at those close to me for keeping it a secret, although I grew to understand why. I was also sad that she had to go through this and that this potentially wasn’t the end.”
Hannah was discharged from hospital two weeks later. “She continues to have regular check-ups and scans to make sure the tumour isn’t growing,” said Ciara.
“At her last appointment there had been no sign of the tumour increasing in size which is fantastic!”
Despite already achieving her £500 target, Ciara is aiming to raise additional funds for The National Brain Appeal. This will be Ciara’s second Royal Parks Half Marathon and she is challenging herself to complete it within two hours, with the support of her family who will be there on the day “rain or shine.”
To support Ciara’s cause, go to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ciara-may
The Royal Parks Half Marathon takes place on Sunday the 13th October. To find out more visit https://royalparkshalf.com/