Late Aylesbury teenager's legacy lives on as his family continue to support research initiatives five years later

The family of an Aylesbury teenager lost to a brain tumour will be honouring their eldest son on Tuesday 31 May – the day he should have turned 18.

By James Lowson
Friday, 27th May 2022, 11:47 am

Ollie Gardiner died aged just 13, but his legacy lives on through his family’s efforts.

Ollie lived in Aston Clinton with his mother and father Jane and Peter Gardiner and brother Theo.

He was diagnosed in May 2015, aged 10 with a medulloblastoma, the most common form of high-grade brain tumour in children.

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Ollie Gardiner

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National charity, Brain Tumour Research, outlines that Ollie then underwent surgery which left him with posterior fossa syndrome (PFS) a post-operative syndrome which can involve a variety of symptoms including mutism or speech disturbances, dysphagia, decreased motor movement, cranial nerve palsies and difficulty managing emotions.

Despite treatment, including emergency craniotomies, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the cancer returned and the family was told that there were no further options available on the NHS.

Jane, Peter, Ollie & Theo Gardiner

Jane and Peter, along with friends, launched an appeal which raised almost £500,000 to fund pioneering immunotherapy treatment for Ollie in Germany, but nothing could save him. Ollie passed away in November 2017, two-and-a-half years after he was initially diagnosed with a tummy bug, which, after an MRI scan, revealed a mass the size of a golf ball.

Peter said: “We’ll be marking Ollie’s birthday quietly as we always do and looking through the boxes and boxes of mementoes and stuff which belonged to him.

“Ollie’s 18th birthday is particularly poignant for me because I always had in my heart that I would get him safely through his childhood years. It was my job as his dad to get him to adulthood and I failed.

“I should have been taking him to the pub and buying him his first legal pint. Instead, we’ll be at home thinking of all Ollie should have had ahead of him, perhaps university, getting his first proper job, maybe getting married and having children.

Peter & Ollie Gardiner

“It’s some comfort that his friends at John Colet School in Wendover, who are all turning 18, still honour Ollie’s memory. His best friend George Walter recently gave a talk to the younger years at the school to tell them about Ollie and his legacy – it’s lovely he isn’t being forgotten.”

The Gardiners donated £187,000 of the residue of their crowdfunding to Brain Tumour Research and this sum is funding post-doctoral researcher Sara Badodi over a five-year period at the charity’s Research Centre of Excellence within Queen Mary University of London.

Sara said: “Very rarely does a day go by when Ollie isn’t at some point in my thoughts as I work in our lab. I would have liked to have shown him the work we are doing but now we do it in his memory and I am so thankful to his family for the funding they gave us and the opportunity to learn more about his tumour type that this funding presents.

"It is such a poignant time for Ollie’s family and while they are remembering this lovely boy and grieving the man he should have become, we are doing everything we can to make a future diagnosis of a medulloblastoma, one that brings with it the hope of a full recovery.”

Donations can be made in Ollie’s memory online here.