Mansfield teenager helped raise £3,000 for brain tumour research after losing step-dad to devastating illness

A Mansfield teenager has helped raise £3,000 for brain tumour research after losing her beloved step-dad to the devastating illness.

Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 5:21 pm

Scarett Sykes, 18, raised the money for the Brain Tumour Research charity in memory of Afghanistan veteran Paul Malcolm.

The former Samworth Church Academy school pupil lost her 48-year-old stepdad to an aggressive brain tumour in April 2017 – just five weeks after his diagnosis.

Scarlett, who grew up in Mansfield said: “My stepdad was a registered mental health nurse and a reservist in the British Army. He led a fantastically full life, studying for a degree in fine art, whilst juggling his career as a frontline NHS worker.

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Scarlett Sykes
Scarlett Sykes

"He’d done two operational tours of Afghanistan and was extremely fit and healthy. He exercised daily and was a vegetarian. His diagnosis with a grade-three brain tumour in April 2017 came as a huge shock.”

In spring, 2017, Paul’s family noticed some unusual symptoms, he was becoming clumsy, forgetful and eventually became nauseous.

Scarlett said: “Paul had always been fairly clumsy; he would trip over his own feet, but we became aware that he was doing it more often. He was also forgetting things, like whether he’d eaten or not. Eventually mum became so worried she took him to A&E. That’s when they scanned him and found a brain tumour.”

Mental health nurse Paul Malcolm had been an Army reservist who served two tours of Afghanistan

Paul was admitted to the Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) in Nottingham, where they carried out a biopsy.

Scarlett said: “He was told the tumour was too big to try to remove with surgery. It was in his frontal lobe. The histology report from the biopsy revealed it was a high-grade tumour but after the procedure, he was really badly affected. He very quickly got drastically worse and could barely communicate or recognise his own family.

“They gave him radiotherapy to try to control the disease but the tumour was very aggressive and by then it was too late. He died aged 48 on July 24, 2017.

As well as Scarlett, Paul left behind her older brother Charlie and his partner Samantha, a fellow NHS mental health nurse.

Scarlett Sykes with her mum Samantha

Scarlett added: “I was only 15 at the time. I couldn’t really comprehend what had happened. He’d become ill so quickly and declined rapidly. It took a huge toll on my mum. She and Paul were planning to get married.

“My brother Charlie was 20 and due to go travelling around Europe when Paul was admitted to hospital. He nearly cancelled but Paul encouraged him to still go. He was always supportive of both of us and wanted us to thrive and take every opportunity.”

It was Scarlett’s dream to attend Samworth Church Academy’s partner school, Gordonstoun, in Moray, Scotland. The Mansfield comprehensive is partnered with the prestigious independent school and each year, Gordonstoun offers a scholarship for a Samworth pupil to attend its sixth form boarding school.

The prestigious private school’s notable alumni include the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and his son Prince Charles.

Scarlett Sykes won a scholarship to go to sixth form Prince Philip’s former school, Gordonstoun, in Scotland

Scarlett said: “I’d had my heart set on applying for the scholarship. I thought Gordonstoun looked so cool, a bit like Hogwarts. However, we’d just lost Paul and I didn’t want to leave my mum.

"But Paul had always been 100 per cent behind me applying and he thought I’d do well there. I put my application in and was selected. I felt so proud to have done it for Paul.”

In September 2019, Scarlett joined Year 12 at Gordonstoun to study A-levels in English Literature, History, and Geography.

True to Paul’s predication, Scarlett thrived, becoming History Captain and a member of the school council. She played rugby for the school and represented Gordonstoun in netball and hockey.

When Scarlett turned 18 in January, she marked her big birthday by setting up a Facebook fundraiser to raise money for Brain Tumour Research in memory of her stepdad. She received donations amounting to £1,500.

Paul Malcolm who had an aggressive brain tumour

Scarlett said: “As a family, we are passionate about ensuring no other family has to experience the pain we have been through.

Then a member of Hopeman House at Gordonstoun, galvanised Scarlett’s school friends to do even more fundraising and the house chose Brain Tumour Research as the charity to support during the summer term.

“I came up with the idea of a fundraising event, inspired by the famous morning runs, which were a compulsory part of the Gordonstoun curriculum until the 1990s,” Scarlett said.

Traditionally, more than 100 students and staff, running in household groups, would undertake a daily 3.5km run from Gordonstoun House to the nearby Coastguard Watchtower, a building which replaced a wooden hut, which Prince Philip helped to build in 1935.

“I organised a similar, sponsored event, which involved a very early wake-up, followed by a jaunt to the Watchtower, where we spotted dolphins and came back for breakfast. 80 people took part, across all the year groups, raising £1,500 for Brain Tumour Research.” She added.

Scarlett is now waiting to receive her A-level results this summer and hopes to go to Goldsmiths College in London to study psychology.

Joe Woollcott, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research, said: “What Scarlett has done in memory of her stepdad is truly inspiring.

"She has turned a terrible situation into something really positive and has raised the equivalent amount to fund a day’s research at one of our Centres of Excellence, which is phenomenal. We thank her sincerely and wish her the best of luck for her A-level results and beyond.”

To donate to Brain Tumour Research visit: https://www.braintumourresearch.org/donation/donate-now.

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Paul Malcolm was an army reservist who served two tours of Afghanistan
Scarlett Sykes