Sherrie Hewson’s brother diagnosed with an “incurable” brain tumour now enlisted the help of a special medical company called Oncologica
Sherrie Hewson was due on stage when her phone rang with shattering news.
The Coronation Street favourite’s beloved elder brother Brett had been diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour. He was given 18 months to live. Sherrie, 68, burst into floods of tears in her dressing room.
The actress, who played stroppy hotel manager Joyce Temple-Savage in Benidorm, was about to appear in a stage version of the ITV sitcom.
In the months that followed Sherrie would turn her life upside down to help Brett fight the killer disease and to be by his side.
She said: “I wouldn’t take it in. I think it was my way of dealing with it because I knew I was due on stage and because I just didn’t want to believe it.
“Brett is my big brother who I have always looked up to and he has always led a charmed life.
“Everything he touched had turned to gold and suddenly I was hearing this. It didn’t make sense.
“Part of me wanted to throw everything up in the air and go to him there and then. But another voice in my head said, ‘No. You need to keep on earning, girl, because Brett is going to need you now.’ You’d better get out here and do your job.”
Sherrie, who first trod the boards aged four, wiped aways the tears and got ready for the show at Belfast’s Grand Opera House. Fellow actors Tony Maudsley, who plays Kenneth, and Jake Canuso, who is Mateo, helped Sherrie through the show.
Sherrie said: “Not a soul in the audience knew what I was going through. Every part of me wanted to be with Brett but I had to stay strong.” That night her performance brought the house down and, despite all the heartache in the following months, Sherrie did not miss a show.
After taking her bow she dashed to Belfast airport to be by Brett’s side. On April 4, just a few days after the diagnosis, Brett, 71, was admitted to the Walton Centre, a neurological hospital in Liverpool, where a golf ball sized tumour was removed from his brain in a nine-hour operation. His daughter Chloe, 37, had insisted former DJ, male model and TV actor Brett have a check-up after his tongue stopped moving properly.
He was also sensing mysterious powerful odours and was constantly feeling tired.
At an A&E near his home in Llandudno, Conwy – where he runs a tea shop with his wife of 40 years Annie, 68, – a scan revealed a massive swelling on the brain.
Fluid had built up and Brett would have died within days without surgery.
The operation was a success but three days later he suffered a massive bleed on the brain and needed another four-hour op to remove a blood clot which had formed in the cavity where the tumour had been.
Again he pulled through and then faced radiotherapy and chemo in a bid to keep the aggressive cancer at bay. Tests showed the tumour was a grade 4 glioblastoma – the most common and aggressive brain tumour in adults.
Now Sherrie aims to be by Brett’s side as much as possible in the time he has left.
She has also become an ambassador of The Brain Tumour Charity to raise awareness of the symptoms and is seeking new treatments and drugs which could help prolong Brett’s life beyond 18 months.
She also has plans to rent a home in Llandudno to be near Brett and has arranged to do Christmas panto in the town so all the family will be together.
Sherrie, who was dizzy Maureen Webster in Corrie and has been a regular on Loose Women, said: “You never think it’s going to happen to you or your family but it doesn’t matter if you’re famous or not, young or old, brain tumours can affect any one.
“Brett wants to leave a legacy and he wants to raise awareness of this awful illness which can creep up on people.
“So becoming an ambassador for The Brain Tumour Charity was something I had to do for him and the people we may be able to help.
“I think about Brett’s prognosis every minute of the day. As a family we have vowed to live in the moment for Brett and for ourselves to get the very most out of the time we all have together with him. Fear touches everything now. It overshadows everything we do.
“I don’t allow myself to look too far into the future – it’s too frightening, so I don’t let my mind go there. He’s selfless and all he worries about is the impact on his family – that’s when he breaks down.”
Sherrie has now enlisted the help of a special medical company called Oncologica, which runs a DNA service and, after testing Brett’s tumour, has come up specifics drugs which may help him live longer.
Sherrie said: “The NHS has been amazing, they saved Brett’s life, now it is all about buying him as much time as we can.
“I’ll do everything I can to get him the very best treatment and if I have to work 365 days a year so be it. I’ll do anything.”
Sherrie, who revealed her own breast cancer scare in 2015, is aiming to raise £50,000 for The Brain Tumour Charity by offering a lunch date with herself on the good causes website Rafful – as well as an overnight stay in a London hotel for the winner.
Meanwhile her family is doing all it can to support Brett, who said his little sister and the rest of his family have been “amazing”. He said: “Sherrie and I are incredibly close and I confide my feelings and fears in her – I can tell her anything.
“We’re bound together by love and humour.
“Sherrie will always be my Shez – I’ve always called her that and always will. People think there must be ‘side’ to her because she’s an actress but she’s the same lovely, down-to-earth girl she’s always been.
“She is such a loving person with a fabulous big heart and would do anything to help anyone, especially her big brother. I’ve always told my family I love them but now I tell them I love them every time I see them and hug them closer.
“I’m grateful I’ve had such a rich, full life right up to my 70s, and I feel blessed I’ve got such a loving, supportive family around me.
“Every one of them is amazing. Chloe saved my life and Annie is my rock. I don’t know what I’d do without her. I know nothing about brain tumours. When doctors told me I had a glioblastoma I asked, ‘Is that serious?’
“The answer was, ‘It doesn’t get any worse.’ When I was told it was terminal I just couldn’t take it in. It feels like it’s a story being told about someone else.
“You’re in such a heightened state of emotion and shock that you can’t process it at first. You have to face your own mortality. This is what you’ve got and it’s going to kill you in 12-18 months. I’m learning to accept it, one step at a time.
“I’m not scared or sad for myself but I am scared and sad for my family – what lies ahead of them and the grief they’ll face.
“We’re all doing our best to live in the moment.
“I have everything I want or need – my family – and I just want to spend time with them. Now it’s about living the best life I can in the time I’ve got left.”