A mum from Bromley was diagnosed with a brain tumour in September 2023 after spilling coffee over herself twice in an hour prompted her to get checked out.

Helen Hanlon, an admin manager from Biggin Hill, has now begun a month-long fitness challenge to help find a cure for the disease.

The mum suspected she had multiple sclerosis (MS) when she first sought help for her symptoms.

The 49-year-old said: “I would fall at the drop of a hat, and I would forget things.

“I also had really bad headaches and would wake up a little bit shaky sometimes.

“My vision was affected too, so things were blurry and I got optical migraines.

“And I was clumsy.

“I’ve got three sisters and it was a running joke that I’d be the one to stack it, and not because I’d had too many gins.

“Invariably I couldn’t get through doorways without hitting my shoulders, so eventually I went to the doctor saying ‘I’m concerned I’ve got MS’.”

Helen’s symptoms had developed over the course of a year, but it was a colleague, concerned after watching Helen drop two cups of coffee over herself within an hour, who finally persuaded her to go and get checked out.

In January, Helen went to see her GP who performed simple neurological tests to rule out MS and referred her to a neurologist.

It took eight months for that referral to come through, but when it did an MRI scan was carried out, leading to the discovery of her meningioma.

The mum-of-two, who has nicknamed her tumour Tina, said: “The doctors are concerned it’s quite large, just under 3cm by just over 3cm, but they say it’s not actually irritating my brain at the moment so they’re just going to monitor it for now.

“I would say, with all the symptoms I have, it is irritating my brain but the plan is to watch and wait.

“It’s just me and my kids and their biggest fear is something happening to me.

“I got as far as saying ‘I need to talk to you both’ before they were in tears.

“My 16-year-old was telling me I was going to die for at least a week, but I think they’re just starting to settle into the idea that this is how it is.”

Helen, a former marathon runner who has been unable to run since injuring her knee earlier this year, said her tumour has forced her to “take stock of what’s really important."

With this in mind, she signed up for the Brain Tumour Research charity’s 100 a Day Your Way challenge, which got underway on Wednesday, November 1.

Participants are asked to do 100 reps of either squats, star jumps, sit-ups, push-ups, a plank, or a combination of all five exercises, every day in November.

Helen said: “I’ll probably be doing a combination of squats, star jumps and sit-ups, but a friend of mine has suggested adding 100 gins over the course of the month too, which could be fun.

“I try to walk every day and I dance as well, but this will give me a push to tone up a little bit.

“I consider myself lucky because my tumour is low grade, so if I can do something to help others by raising money and awareness for Brain Tumour Research then I’m all for that.”

Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “We were saddened to learn of Helen’s recent brain tumour diagnosis.

“Sadly, with one in three of us knowing someone with a brain tumour, her story is not unique.

“Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease since records began in 2002.

“We’re determined to change this and welcome Helen’s support.

“We’re really grateful she’s taken on this challenge for us and wish her the best of luck with it.

“Together we will find a cure.”