Isle of Wight postman Andrew Fowle will be using his daily round for training as he takes on a 50-mile coastal trek challenge in memory of his son Ashley, who died from a brain tumour just 2 months before his 14th birthday.
Andrew, who lives in Ryde, is taking part in the ‘Follow the Seagulls trek’, which is raising funds for the Cowes-based brain tumour support charity, brainstrust. The event will see walkers tackling 50 miles of coastline over the weekend of 27th/28th April 2019.
Local postie Andrew hopes to raise awareness of the work of the charity to support families who are dealing with the huge impact of a brain tumour diagnosis.
Ashley (pictured left) was diagnosed with a brainstem/spinal cord tumour in 1994, when he was just 4-years-old. He had been treated for hydrocephalus, a build-up of fluid on the brain, when he was 6-weeks-old, but when he was nearing 4, he began developing scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and doctors became concerned. He underwent an MRI scan which revealed a brain stem and spinal cord tumour.
Andrew, who was a policeman based in Maidstone and married to his first wife Vivien, at the time, says:
“We were basically told that nothing could be done, surgery wasn’t possible because of the position of the tumour and he was given just six to 12 months to live”.
Ashley was treated with radiotherapy, which Andrew now believes made his condition worse. By chance the family heard about a paediatric neurosurgeon based in New York, Dr Fred Epstein, who had successfully operated on these types of tumours in children. Going against the advice of the UK doctors, they sent Ashley’s scans to Dr Epstein.
The family had to raise £35,000 for the operation. They turned to the Police Benevolent Fund, who said they would support the family and lend them the money for the operation – they also launched a fundraising drive. So, the ‘Ashley to America’ appeal was launched, national TV appearances followed and within days, thanks to the generosity of the public, the fund had reached £100,000. The extra funds would be put into a trust for Ashley’s care. Andrew even received a personal call from Richard Branson, offering to fly the family to the States on Virgin Airways.
On arrival at the hospital, Ashley underwent surgery on his brain and Dr Epstein confirmed he had managed to remove 95% of the tumour. Once the effects of the radiotherapy had worn off and he had recovered from the operation, Ashley did recover slightly and was able to feed himself and walk with a frame.
“Physically he wasn’t good, but he had hell of a sense of humour and always had a smile on his face, we had a walking frame for him and he loved playing football”.
But bad news was just around the corner when one of Ashley’s regular scans revealed that the tumour had begun to grow again. It was decided to treat Ashley with chemotherapy, but sadly Ashley died the morning after receiving the first treatment, just 2 months before his 14th birthday.
Andrew, who retired from the police force in 2013 and is now remarried to Karen, a teacher on the Isle of Wight, said he hopes to help other people by taking part in the Follow the Seagulls trek.
“I have always wanted to do something to give back and to support other people who might be in the same position as we were, which is why I have chosen to take part in Follow the Seagulls. It’s also important to me to walk in the memory of my son Ashley who was an inspiration to a lot of people”.
Anna Wilson, Challenge Events Coordinator for brainstrust said:
“Walking to remember Ashley, Andrew will be joining a team of Seagulls Superheroes walking for inspirational reasons. Whether they’re walking to remember someone, to support somebody they love, or they’ve been diagnosed themselves, Follow the Seagulls brings together an incredible group of people all ready to do something BIG to support people affected by a brain tumour”.
Over 2 weekends in April, 4 walks take place around the country including right here in Cowes, Whitby in North Yorkshire, Dartmouth in Devon and the Fife coast in Scotland. Participants pay £20 to register for the walk of their choice and are asked to raise a minimum sponsorship of £500.
More information about the event and how to sign up can be found at www.followtheseagulls.com.