Teenager has dad's brain scan image tattoed on his neck as anniversary surprise in Milton Keynes

It was a 'craniversary' present to mark the brain tumour op that saved his dad's life

By Sally Murrer
Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 4:40 pm

A teenager has surprised his family by getting a unique tattoo on the anniversary of his father's brain surgery.

Harrison ‘Harry’ Shanley’s life was forever altered when, in 2018, his dad Matt Shanley was left with life-changing effects from a surgery he underwent to remove a rare subependymoma brain tumour.

To mark the third anniversary of the craniotomy that saved his dad’s life, 18-year-old Harry got a permanent reminder inked onto the back of his neck, something he refers to as his dad’s ‘craniversary present’.

Harry's tattoo. Photo: Brain Tumour Research

The surgery left Matt sight impaired and he still suffers with fatigue, memory problems and debilitating seizures. But without it, the outlook would have been much bleaker.

Harry, who lives in Cranfield, said of his tattoo: “It’s exactly what I wanted. I suggested using a cartoon image of a brain but the tattooist took my dad’s brain scans and created this realistic picture of it, with a blue rose growing through it where his tumour was. It’s like having something nice growing out of the evil tumour that was there.”

After 45 minutes in the tattoo parlour chair, Harry rushed to his grandmother’s house to surprise Cranfield postman Matt, who was with other family members who had gathered after completing a Walk of Hope in aid of MK-based charity Brain Tumour Research.

Harry said: “I got it on the back of my neck so it’s more visible. Dad was pretty shocked because he didn’t know I was getting it but he was happy and proud – it obviously means a lot to him.”

Harry with dad Matt. Photo: Brain Tumour Research

He added: “Quite a few people have asked me about it and I’m happy to explain it to them because it’s about raising awareness too. It’s not a good memory but it’s something that’s happened in my life, it’s a huge part of all our lives now, and it needs to be made known to people how much one surgery can affect someone’s life.”

Matt’s family has taken part in a number of fundraisers for Brain Tumour Research, including a 5k colour run in 2019, Wear a Hat Day in March this year and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium’s Dare Skywalk in August, a challenge Matt was unable to do because of ongoing medical problems so Harry and girlfriend Leah Lewis accepted on his behalf.

Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “Matt’s story is bittersweet; his craniotomy saved his life but the lasting effects from that operation have had a big impact on him and his family. We wish them all the best in the future and hope that Harry’s tattoo, which is a unique and supportive way to mark the ‘craniversary’, continues to help raise awareness of brain tumours and the need for more national investment into research.”

Matt's brain scan. Photo: Brain Tumour Research

Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure.

The charity is calling for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.

To support the work of the charity, visit here.