A grieving South Yorkshire mum who lost her only son to a brain tumour has spoken out to highlight the 'chronic under funding' into researching the disease.
Aaron Wood, from Catcliffe, Rotherham, was just 21 when he was diagnosed with a tumour in the brain. He went through surgery and treatment, achieving his dream of graduating with a degree in philosophy after retaking his final year, but passed away in December 2016.
His dying wish was to donate his brain to medical science to aid further understanding of the disease. Now his mum Crystal, 44, is determined to honour her son by continuing his legacy of helping others.
Aaron's mum Crystal, 44, has today spoken of her pain on losing her only son during Brain Tumour Awareness Month which kicked off last week.
Crystal said Aaron was sports mad, the president of the squash club at the University of Essex and a big fan of Huddersfield Town.
She also described the strong bond he shared with his little sister Emily.
"As a friend of Aaron’s had told me, Aaron always had a pretty girl on his arm but Emily was the most important girl in his life, they adored each other," she said.
But the first sign Aaron was ill was when he attended a family celebration. Emily had just had a cast removed after surgery on her leg.
He collapsed in the house and was rushed to Rotherham Hospital. He had a scan and the family thought he would be sent home.
But they were wrong. The results came back showing a abnormality and he was transferred to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield.
"I was in shock," Crystal said.
"I couldn’t reach my husband on the phone so I called his mum and sister. I was on the verge of screaming – how could this be happening? Aaron had always been active, he was healthy, and doing really well in his final year at uni. He was tall, just over 6ft, always slim, he went to the gym every day."
The battle begun. A series of treatments and drugs followed and Aaron was determined to finish university which he did - graduating with a 2:1.
But on September 5, 2016, the family received the dreadful news Aaron's tumour was terminal. He passed away four months later surrounded by his family.
Crystal said: “Aaron saved my life before he was even born. I had a car accident when I was four months pregnant and it was a wake-up call, the moment I realised I had to start taking care of myself for the sake of my unborn child. A brain tumour robbed Aaron of the prime of his life and robbed me of my sunshine.
"It is so painful to think he saved me by giving me something to live for and yet, 24 years later, I was unable to save him.
"At 10.41pm on December 4, 2016, he took his last breath. On that day, I was left with a hole in my heart that will never be filled.
"I feel as if I have the burdens of the world on my shoulders. Even after six weeks I was still expecting text messages from him or for him to walk through the door. I take great comfort from the fact the last time I heard Aaron’s voice he was telling me he loved me and that we were able to help him achieve his final wish.
“From the moment he knew he was going to die, Aaron wanted to donate his brain to medical science. Twelve hours after he passed away, Aaron’s brain was taken in the hope it would help others. It was to remain in Sheffield and be listed on the Brain Bank which means scientists across the UK will be able to access tissue samples for their research.
“I cannot stand by without doing all I can to change this unfair historic under funding. I don’t want to see Aaron’s legacy die and I don’t want his name to be forgotten.
"Somebody had to really push to ensure Aaron’s wish to donate his brain came true and I hope that in reading his story people will be encouraged to never give up.
"It is hard enough to lose a loved one, it is never right to lose a child, Aaron was 24 but he was still my baby.”
Figures from charity Brain Tumour Research show the disease kills more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer yet just one per cent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours.
Crystal is campaigning to raise awareness of brain tumours and, along with Brain Tumour Research, lobbying the government and larger cancer charities to see the national spend increased to £30m - £35m a year, in line with other cancers such as breast and leukaemia.
If you would like to make a donation to Brain Tumour Research via JustGiving click the link here and quote “Aaron Wood”.