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How creativity has helped Lou throughout lockdown, and her brain tumour journey

Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic last year, the pace of life as we had previously known it suddenly slowed down; similar to how many people feel when suddenly faced with a brain tumour diagnosis. Lou Henry, who was diagnosed with a meningioma in 2018, having previously also been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 2010, used the time in lockdown to get stuck into some creative projects and teach herself some new skills – a thought that may feel daunting at first, but as Lou explains, it needn’t be.

“Since lockdown last year I had noticed that my memory and ability to understand instructions was getting worse. I had read that learning new things can help new brain cells to grow and keep the memory sharp so, I decided to use the time to start some new creative projects. Art and creativity is something that I have always enjoyed but in this time of isolation, I have found myself learn some new skills that I did not know I had. It can feel daunting to try something new, but it is also so exciting when something I painted or made turns out better than I imagined it would.”

One such project that Lou started was watercolour painting; an activity that she has also been able to take part in with her young granddaughter.

At the start of lockdown, Lou and her granddaughter started doing joint art projects together over FaceTime and due to the government introducing childcare bubbles, they have now been able to expand their creativity and have some new projects lined up that they can do together.

When it comes to getting inspiration for her next project, Lou has found a lot of use in looking online for tips, scouring Pinterest and YouTube for ideas and guides, as well as TV, DIY programmes and books.

Some examples of the many things that Lou has created include Christmas, birthday and sympathy cards for family and friends and she likes to keep a log of everything she makes so she can see her progress.

“My confidence and enjoyment have improved when I create something new, such as the personalised cards. They can be simple or complicated but are made from the heart and are personalised, so I feel connected to each person I am making them for.”

‘Art is magical to me’

Lou has found expanding her creativity an incredibly rewarding experience and says that when she is in the moment of making something new, it allows her to focus on what she is doing in that moment, rather than other things that she may be worrying about.

“I am no expert but I feel that anyone can do it if I can. It has done me good to put my mind to something and look outwards rather than worrying inwards. Art is magical to me. It can start off with a blob of paint that turns into something recognisable in front of your eyes. My advice to somebody wanting to start a new creative project would be to start off small and don’t worry if it isn’t perfect- nothing is perfect. Anything is possible”.

Explore how creativity can help you on your brain tumour journey

This year, we’re theming Brain Tumour Awareness Month around self-care. Real self-care, not just bubble baths and some scented candles (although if they work for you, then great!)! Did you know that art and creativity is a fantastic way to unwind, relax and recharge – even if you’re a complete beginner?

That’s why we’re launching The Great brainstrust Create-Off, our brand new competition open to all ages and abilities. Are you ready to create your masterpiece?

Whether you’re living with the effects of a brain tumour, or you’re caring for a loved one, your well-being couldn’t be more important. By dedicating some time to this project, you’ll explore what makes you one of a kind as you put your personality on paper.

Get creative. Be inspired. Have fun. Join us as we dedicate this month to the 60,000 people living with a brain tumour here in the UK.

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The Brain Tumour Data Dashboard lets you explore up -to-date, population level data about the brain tumours diagnosed in England between 2013 and 2015. Using the drop down menus on the left you can select different groups of patients to view in the charts below. In these charts the number of patients for every 100 diagnoses is displayed as images of people. Patients have been grouped by date of diagnosis, type of tumour, age, gender, and region in England.

For each group of patients you can explore the different routes to diagnosis, the proportion of those who received chemotherapy or radiotherapy, as well as the survival of the patients within each group. For more information about what these metrics mean please see the glossary.

How to use

  1. Select the year of diagnosis using the drop down menu.
  2. Select your patient group of interest from the four drop down menus in the following order:
    1. Tumour group
    2. Age at diagnosis
    3. Region of England
    4. Gender of patient
  3. To view a second chart to compare different groups of patients, click the ‘compare’ button.The second chart will appear below the first chart.

*Note that the tool is best used on a laptop or tablet rather than a mobile phone*

Unavailable data

Some of the data in these charts is not available.There are two main reasons for this:

  1. How the data has been grouped

If you cannot select a patient group from the drop down menus, the data is unavailable because of how the data has been organised.

Public Health England has grouped the data like a branching tree. The bottom of the tree contains all the patients with brain tumours, and then each branch divides the data by a certain characteristics, like age, or location of tumour. But the data is divided in an order, starting with location of the tumour (endocrine or brain), then by age, region, and gender. Age is at the start because it makes a bigger difference to survival rates and treatment rates than gender or region. Sometimes, after the data has been split by type of tumour and age, there is not enough data to be split again. This is because to protect patient confidentiality groups cannot contain less than 100 patients. Because some groups cannot be split further, you cannot create ‘totals’ for everyone by region or gender. For example, you cannot see results for all ages by region, or all brain tumours by gender. If these totals were calculated and released, it might be possible to identify patients, which is why Public Health England cannot release this data.

  1. Statistical reasons and data availability

If you can select a patient group from the chart menus, but the chart does not display, the data is unavailable for one of several reasons:

  1. Data is not yet available for the selected year from Public Health England.
  2. Data is not available because the data quality is too poor to release this statistic.
  3. Data is not available as the statistic is not appropriate for this group.
  4. Data is not available because the standard error of the estimate was greater than 20% and so the estimate has been supressed.

Up to date brain tumour data

Brain tumour data may influence the decisions you make about your care. Data also helps you understand the bigger picture, or landscape, in which you find yourself.

Brain tumour data and statistics influence the focus, and work of organisations like brainstrust. The information helps us to understand the scale and impact of the problems we are setting out to solve.

This tool helps you understand the landscape in which you find yourself having been diagnosed with a brain tumour. This landscape can be particularly tricky to navigate as there are many different types of brain tumour, all of which have a different impact.

The information you see represents the most up-to-date, official, population level brain tumour data available for England. Over time we will be adding to the brain tumour data available and publishing reports, with recommendations, as a result of what we learn from this data.

The data behind this content has come from Public Health England’s National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS) and is a direct result of the ‘Get Data Out’ project.

This project provides anonymised population level brain tumour data for public use in the form of standard output tables, accessible here:


The number or rate (per head of population) of new cases of a disease diagnosed in a given population during a specified time period (usually a calendar year). The crude rate is the total number of cases divided by the mid-year population, usually expressed per 100,000 population.


Malignant tumours which grow by invasion into surrounding tissues and have the ability to metastasise to distant sites


The number or rate (per head of population) of deaths in a given population during a specified time period (usually a calendar year). The crude rate is the total number of deaths divided by the mid-year population, usually expressed per 100,000 population.


Not cancerousNon-malignant tumours may grow larger but do not spread to other parts of the body.


The length of time from the date of diagnosis for a disease, such as cancer, that patients diagnosed with the disease are still alive. In a clinical trial, measuring the survival is one way to see how well a new treatment works. Also called ‘overall survival’ or ‘OS’.

Routes to Diagnosis

Under the ‘Routes to Diagnosis’ tab in the Brain Tumour Data Dashboard, you can explore the ways patients have been diagnosed with brain tumours. There are many ways, or routes, for cancers to be diagnosed in the NHS. A ‘route to diagnosis’ is the series of events between a patient and the healthcare system that leads to a diagnosis of cancer. The routes include:

  1. Two Week Wait

Patients are urgently referred by their GP for suspected cancer via the Two Week Wait system and are seen by a specialist within 2 weeks where they are diagnosed.

  1. GP referral

Diagnosis via a GP referral includes routine and urgent referrals where the patient was not referred under the Two Week Wait system.

  1. Emergency Presentation

Cancers can be diagnosed via emergency situations such as via A&E, emergency GP referral, emergency transfer or emergency admission.

  1. Outpatient

Outpatient cancer diagnoses include diagnoses via an elective route which started with an outpatient appointment that is either a self-referral or consultant to consultant referral. (It does not include those under the Two Week Wait referral system).

  1. Inpatient elective

Diagnosis via an inpatient elective route is where diagnosis occurs after the patient has been admitted into secondary care from a waiting list, or where the admission is booked or planned.

  1. Death Certificate Only

Diagnoses made by Death Certificate Only are made where there is no more information about the cancer diagnosis other than the cancer related death notifications. The date of diagnosis is the same as that of the date of death.

  1. Unknown

For some patients with a cancer diagnosis, there is no relevant data available to understand the route to diagnosis.


More information

If any of the statistical terms in this section of the brainstrust website are hard to understand, we recommend looking them up here:

Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Statistics Explained

If you are looking for help understanding terms relating specifically to brain tumours, and treatment, then the brainstrust glossary is available here: