"He would have been a wonderful father to our perfect little girl."

Katie and James.

By Katie Vullo

James and I met and fell in love when he was 19 and I was 18, I knew he was the one then and we married in Fiji eight years later.

Just after our second wedding anniversary James starting getting headaches, his vision got blurry and he was not himself. He was completing his final year of his law degree at the time but James knew something was wrong so he went to the GP.

I was at work when I got a call from James to come straight to the GP’s office. He wouldn’t tell me what was wrong until I got there and when I walked in he told me that he had a brain tumour, most likely malignant, about the size of a golf ball on the left hand side of his brain.

I’ll never forget what the doctor said to us, “this is a life changing day for both of you.” from the moment of that diagnosis, our normal life as we knew it was effectively over and we started on a terrifying journey from which we could not escape.

The surgery was a success but the news could not have been worse. The pathology showed that it was a grade 4 tumour called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most malignant form of brain cancer and the prognosis was dismal.

James undergoing chemotherapy.

It was devastating news but James remained ever positive. He was going to beat this, we would find a way.
Just two weeks after surgery, James completed writing his law honours dissertation and went on to graduate with honours first class. I could not have been prouder of him.   
He began a six week course of radiotherapy and joined a chemotherapy clinical trial which involved taking both oral chemo and going into hospital for an IV infusion twice a week. Our lives became all about endless hospital visits, doctors, drugs and researching treatments.

James began a strict ketogenic diet and began exercising every day. When his first post-radiotherapy MRI came back all clear, the relief we felt was incredible. James had lost some hair from the radiotherapy, lost some weight and felt fatigued and a bit sick at times but all things considered he was feeling pretty good.

We continued to stay positive and lead as normal lives as we could. We were both determined to continue our plan to start our family and were overjoyed when I fell pregnant with our little girl via IVF.


Eight months after diagnosis James was still doing well and we celebrated his 30th birthday with family and friends but a month later it was confirmed that the tumour had returned in the same spot in his brain. The good news was that it was operable.

We returned home after the surgery only to have the tumour return one month later, this time it was on the right side of his brain, dangerously close to his brain stem. Again we turned to Dr Teo, who operated when no one else would, and started James on an experimental drug but it was only a matter of weeks before the brain stem tumour returned once again – it came back faster and stronger each time.

By now I was six months pregnant and it was clear James was at the end of his life so we took him home from hospital and spent the next few weeks saying goodbye to my amazingly brave husband and best friend who I had loved for eleven years, knowing that soon I would never see him again.


Two months later I gave birth to Abigail. It was bittersweet – such a joyous time was also filled with so much sadness.

Both my mum and mother-in-law were there with me for the birth but it was incredibly difficult to do it without James, knowing that he and Abigail would never meet each other. He would have been a wonderful father to our perfect little girl.

It’s hard now to see other couples and young families and kids who still have their dads.  I never thought that I would be a widowed, single mother of a newborn at the age of 30 – we were supposed to do it together. But I feel so lucky to have her, she keeps me going every day. James will always live on in our hearts and our memories.

Charlie Teo’s Cure Brain Cancer Foundation ball on May 3. We have some MAJOR AUCTION prizes available to all of Australia for phone bidding including meeting Billy Joel in New York, dinner with Charlie Teo in Sydney, private wine tour with Sam Neill in New Zealand, tickets to ELLEN in Los Angeles, two weeks in Paris, skiing with Olympic silver medalist David Morris and more. For more information about the ball click here.

Please share this post to help raise awareness about the upcoming Cure Brain Cancer Foundation ball – which is working to raise funds for research into this area. 

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