Bereaved Banbury parents holding coffee morning for brain tumour charity

Kathryn and Lester Whitby with their late daugher Imogen, who died of a brain tumour last year. Photos courtesy of The Brain Tumour Charity
Kathryn and Lester Whitby with their late daugher Imogen, who died of a brain tumour last year. Photos courtesy of The Brain Tumour Charity

A Banbury couple whose two-year-old daughter died of a brain tumour are raising money for charity in her memory with a Mother's Day-themed event.

Kathryn and Lester Whitby were left devastated when Imogen passed away in January last year - her twin, Angel, was stillborn in 2014.

Fourteen months on, they are holding a coffee and craft morning as part of The Brain Tumour Charity’s first national Big Bandana Bake, which starts today (Friday, March 2).

The Whitbys event is from 10am-12pm at Middleton Cheney Sports and Social Club on Saturday, March 10.

Kathryn said: “I wanted to have a Mother’s Day theme because it’s all the things – decorating cupcakes and making cards – that I would’ve loved to do with Immy.

“So I want to give other mums a lovely day. Their children will be able to make Mother’s Day cards and decorate cupcakes, while they have a cuppa and slice of cake.

“Everyone has been so very kind and I have been overwhelmed by the support I have had.”

Kathryn and Lester are also taking part in a radio-thon on Jack FM from Wednesday to Friday to raise money for Helen and Douglas House hospice as Immy spent her last days there.

They will be talking about their heart-breaking experience, raising awareness of brain cancer in children and the work The Brain Tumour Charity does.

“Our focus is on backing the Brain Tumour Charity as I don’t want to – I can’t – let Immy’s death have been in vain,” Kathryn said.

“Despite our pain, I’m grateful for every second I was privileged to be a mother.

“Now we want to help The Brain Tumour Charity raise funds and awareness to save other families the heartache of losing a child to this devastating disease.

“And our Big Bandana Bake on March 10, is in our gorgeous girl’s memory.

"Being Immy’s mum was a gift and I’ll always be her mum in the piece of my heart she’s tucked away in.”

The couple went through four rounds of IVF treatment over six years before being told they were having twins.

Everything seemed fine until a scan at 20 weeks which revealed the twins were girls but also that Angel was very poorly and was not going to make it.

At 31 weeks, Kathryn went into labour and Angel was stillborn on November 14, 2014.

“Watching Angel’s tiny white little coffin when I was heavily pregnant with her twin kicking inside me was heartbreaking," she said.

Kathryn also has a rare condition where she has two wombs, so Imogen was not born at the same time - she was welcomed into the world on New Year's Eve, 2014.

In July 2016, Immy started being sick and wobbly on her feet - over the following weeks, her worried parents took her to a GP five times but to no avail.

Eventuallly they took her to an out-of-hours GP at Horton General Hospital where a CT scan, the parents were told Immy had a brain tumour and she was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital for further tests and surgery.

During her nine-hour operation in September, 2016, surgeons removed most of the tumour, but had to leave a slither behind as it was too risky.

Immy went through chemotherapy and physiotherapy and were given the all clear before Christmas, but she continued to be sick and three weeks later doctors confirmed the cancer had returned and was terminal.

Kathryn said: “A few days before Immy died, she could no longer see and I wanted her to feel the sun on her face.

“So I took her into the hospice garden and sat on a bench, whispering to her how much I loved her.

“On January 23, 2017, I held Immy in my arms and whispered, ‘it’s time to go, baby girl.

“Then she died in my arms. It was so peaceful and Immy left this world as she’d come into it – with our love.”

Since her death, the bereaved parents have raised more than £17,000 for The Brain Tumour Charity through The Imogen Whitby Fund.

Now the couple are backing the charity’s Big Bandana Bake and HeadSmart's campaign to raise awareness about children’s brain tumour symptoms and save other families their heartache.

The charity's director of fundraising, Geraldine Pipping, said: “Our hearts go out to Kathryn and Lester for losing their gorgeous little girl to this cruel disease – the biggest cancer killer of children and under-40s in the UK.

“We are touched that Kathryn is holding a Mother’s Day bake sale as part of our nationwide Big Bandana Bake to help us raise 150,000 pounds to fund a life-saving research project for two years.

“And we are so grateful to her as we receive no government funding and depend 100 per cent on our wonderful supporters like Kathryn and Lester, donations and gifts in wills.”

For more information about the Big Bandana Bake, visit www.thebraintumourcharity.org/get-involved/fundraise-for-us/big-bandana-bake.

See next week's Banbury Guardian for a more in-depth version of this article