Mother organises Santa fun run inspired by son’s cancer journey

A mother has organised a festive fun run to raise money for charity, inspired by her six-year-old son’s cancer journey. 

Varden Callaghan, from Nightgale Road, Bromley, went undiagnosed for almost three years before doctors found a brain tumor – pilocytic astrocytoma – in April 2022, when he was just four years old.

He had been blinking excessively, rubbing his eyes and getting irritable since he was about eight months old, and had been misdiagnosed with a range of ailments, including sinus problems and blocked tear ducts. 

As he got older, his symptoms worsened.

Varden Callaghan after his surgery (Picture: Family handout/Brain Tumour Research)

His mum Lisa Callaghan, 38, said: “We went on holiday to Ireland around Easter 2022 and realised Varden was starting to lose his balance when he blinked.

“He’d be doing something and stop still as if trying to steady himself. He also started wetting the bed again, despite being fully potty-trained since the age of two. 

“The regression was so severe there were periods he’d wet the bed every single night. We ended up having to put nappies on him again, which he was really upset about. 

“I booked an urgent appointment with a private doctor for our return and it was then I asked if we could have an MRI.

“Less than 48 hours after the scan, as I was getting ready to do the school run, I received a call telling me they’d found a large mass on Varden’s brain.”

At 3cm wide, Varden’s tumour was considered too large to leave in. He underwent surgery In October 2022 and began a phased return back to school in December.

The brave youngster is now being monitored with regular scans.

Lisa Callaghan and Network Rail colleagues taking part in Santa in the City (Picture: Family handout/Brain Tumour Research)

Mrs Callaghan said: “It’s such a relief to know that the worst is over. Varden is now six and although his tumour is slow-growing, we’ve been told it could come back. But, if it does, it will be the same type of tumour and is unlikely to grow past his adolescent years.”

She explained that Varden will continue to be monitored and if another surger is necessary, they will “deal with that then”.

Mrs Callaghan is Network Rail’s programme manager for Sussex capital delivery projects.

To help raise money for others affected by brain tumours, Mrs Callaghan and six of her colleagues will be taking part in a fun run – Santa in the City – to raise money for Brain Tumour Research on Thursday night.

The 4km festive run will see them dress up in five-piece Santa suits and set off through the London, passing landmarks like the Tate Modern, London Eye and St Paul’s Cathedral. 

Mrs Callaghan, a mum-of-four, said: “I did the Crystal Palace Triathlon with my older son in May and decided I’m going to try and do one or two fundraising events each year.

“We’re a mixed ability group. There’s one who has had a knee replacement and another who used to do marathons regularly, but at least two have also been affected by brain tumours.” 

She added: “I’ve never done anything like this before and am definitely not fit enough but I’m looking forward to it anyway. I think afterwards, it’ll be such a good feeling to know we’ve done something positive and raised money for and awareness of brain tumours.”

To support Mrs Callaghan and her colleagues’ fundraising, visit

Pictured top: Lisa Callaghan and Varden Callaghan (Picture: Family handout/Brain Tumour Research)

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