Rachel's story

Diagnosed in 2014


I am a Special Educational Needs PE teacher who lives in Wiltshire. I also work for a national organisation called the Youth Sport Trust, giving children with a disability as many sporting opportunities as possible through training, advising and helping to facilitate high quality PE and events.

I believe passionately that all children have the right to an inclusive, meaningful physical education. I love my job and have been happy at my school for many years.

Alongside my teaching I am a triathlete and proud member of Team GB!  Here’s how I got there: 

A talent for triathlons

Having played women's football for over 20 years to quite a high standard, I sustained a very serious knee injury in 2000 and didn't know if I would ever play again. During my recovery I concentrated on running, gradually reaching marathon distance. After 12 marathons, friends persuaded me to try my first triathlon - taking part on a borrowed bike!


I finished 5th which was encouraging, and after juggling football with many more races of all distances from sprint to ironman, I decided in 2010 to retire from football and  see exactly how good I could be at triathlon. I set my sights on qualifying for the GB team in Budapest during my 40th year. I qualified and finished 9th in the world. That's when I realised I probably had a bit of talent!

With my partner Tim, who has been unwavering in his support of me, I have travelled all over the world to race. I won a silver medal at the Europeans in Israel 2012 and became European Champion in Turkey a year later. I have also won many National medals.

The proudest day of my life though will probably never change. I was chosen to be an Olympic Torchbearer for the London 2012 Olympics! It was such an honour and really was the experience of a lifetime.

Nothing wrong

Then in August 2013 I noticed a change in my eyesight on one side. It was intermittent and didn't have a pattern. Three doctors managed to persuade me there was nothing wrong, suggesting I was just tired, over trained or stressed. Then in April 2014 I had a crushing headache, followed by another one in May. My eye lid dropped and my nose tingled. Again the hospital and another doctor said there was nothing wrong. I asked to see a private consultant.

Whilst I waited for my appointment I continued to race and competed in the European Championships in Kitzbuhel, Austria in June 2014. I finished fifth by one second - securing my place for championships in Geneva in 2015. Little did I know how significant this second would be! 

Three days after this I saw a neurologist at the Bath Clinic. He told me there was something very seriously wrong with me and that I may never exercise again. A week later I had an MRI and the next day he called me to tell me I had a brain tumour.

Life changing


So that's when my life changed…but not for the worse. I was enveloped by the love of my friends and family, and my school and the Youth Sport Trust were wonderful too. 

I waited six months for my operation. On 15th December I underwent a 12 hour operation to remove 'Tooties' (that's what I named my tumour). I was warned that it was a very complicated procedure because Tooties was wrapped around my carotid artery, pushing on all my eye nerves and could potentially paralyse me. I have a very strong faith in God and always believed I was being looked after. I wasn't scared. The operation went well. I made record progress and left hospital within ten days. 

All was going to plan until  two weeks later when I started to feel unwell. A scan showed a massive oedema (swelling) in my head. I had an infection. I had to have a second operation and it was following this that I nearly died. My temperature rocketed and my blood pressure plummeted. The doctor wanted to call my next of kin. I didn't want him to. I knew I was fighting for my life but I knew I wasn't going to die!

I needed six weeks of very strong medication. During this time I was very poorly and through side effects from the drugs did face some horrible demons in some very dark places. Sometimes that triathlon place I'd won for Geneva seemed an impossibility but I held my faith.

The race of my life

Once home I concentrated on slowly but surely healing and getting stronger. Little by little, from shuffling, to walking, gradually building up strength, often accompanied by my dog Murph, always encouraged by Tim and family and friends. 

Then in April I was told I would just be monitored from now on & that I was safe to get on with my life. My first thought was "Geneva here I come!" and all my efforts went to trying to regain some fitness whilst returning to the job I love. The icing on the cake was that I was also chosen to be the captain of my age group in Geneva. And I made it - truly the race of my life!

Everything is in techno colour now. I have a clarity that I hope never leaves me. I want to do everything. I appreciate what I have and how lucky I am.
My life didn't stop when I was diagnosed with a brain tumour but is of course different.


It hasn't been easy. I am now blind in one eye, but different doesn't automatically mean worse. I genuinely believe that my life will get better and better thanks to the scaffolding and love of Tim and my friends and family.


I am delighted to have been asked to be an ambassador for Brain Tumour Support. My aim is to help patients & their families believe there is always hope. Our lives are worth fighting for!