Two months after marrying his fiancee, Buckingham resident Oli Hilsdon has died from an aggressive brain tumour.
Oli died four years after his diagnosis with his family by his side on Sunday January 6, at the age of 26.
Oli, a recognisable face in the community, was a former pupil of Bourton Meadow Primary School and the Royal Latin School.
His parents Jayne and Tim have lived in Buckingham all their lives, both coming from local families.
After gaining A-Levels in maths, further maths and economics, Oli went to Pembroke College at Cambridge University and graduated in 2014 with a degree in economics.
Oli then landed a dream job at an American private equity firm in London.
Things then took a tragic turn in August that year when he suffered a seizure and was subsequently diagnosed with a glioblastoma two weeks before Christmas.
At the age of just 22, Oli was given a prognosis of 12 to 18 months.
Oli underwent chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy.
He continued to go out running on a daily basis and buoyed by the news that he was in remission, he took on the challenge of running the London Marathon in 2016 to raise funds for the Milton Keynes-based Brain Tumour Research charity.
He crossed the finishing line in less than four hours, raising a massive £60,000 to fund research to help find a cure.
At the time Oli said: “When you are told you might not be around for much longer, it changes things.
"I wanted to run to prove to myself that I’m very much alive and I can do it.”
In June 2017, Oli’s only sibling, Emily, now 23, wanted to help make a difference and became a marketing assistant for Brain Tumour Research.
Devastatingly, Oli’s symptoms returned towards the end of 2017 and he underwent surgery, followed by months of chemotherapy.
He was told his best chance of survival would be a vaccine made from the tumour itself, a pioneering treatment not available on the National Health Service.
Oli married his devoted fiancée Gigi, who supported him throughout his battle with the tumour in October last year.
Meanwhile in February last year Oli's family launched the Oli’s Fight campaign to raise £230,000 to allow Oli to go ahead with the treatment.
The community got behind Oli from day one with fundraising events across the town, including his former school the Royal Latin, his former university at Pembroke College, Boycott Farm Shop, St. Bernardine’s Catholic Church and Hamilton House Care Home (where Oli’s grandmother lives).
There were also quiz nights, sports events, a golf day, a football fundraiser, a yoga weekend, the Tingewick Community Café’s fundraiser, a summer Oliday event (involving a range of shops, pubs and restaurants in the town) and concerts by the Lenborough Singers and All the Range.
A friend of Jayne’s organised an evening of music and an auction at the Royal Latin, which raised an incredible £13,000 towards Oli's treatment.
As well as a whole series of fundraising events, Oli's friends and neighbours took on challenges of their own ranging from a Tough Mudder and a half marathon to cycling the 500 miles between the Three Peaks, walking 270 miles along the Pennine Way or 200 miles along Wainwrights Coast to Coast.
Despite raising the necessary funds for Oli to start the vaccine treatment his condition deteriorated as he continued his chemotherapy treatment.
Just a year after treatment for breast cancer, Jayne found herself supporting her son along his brain tumour journey.
When the community got behind Fight for Oli, Jayne took the trouble to thank each and every person and organisation involved in the fundraising campaign and poignantly commented: “It’s not what we have in life, but who we have in our lives that matters.”
Sue Farrington Smith, who lost her beloved niece Alison Phelan to a brain tumour in June 2001 and is now chief executive of Brain Tumour Research, as well as trustee for Ali’s Dream, knows some of the pain the Hilsdons will be going through.
Sue, who has known the family for many years since meeting Jayne through St Bernardine’s Catholic Church said: “Oli was such an inspirational young man who touched everyone he met.
"He endured his diagnosis with bravery, courage and the determination to fight it to the end.
"The team and I are devastated by his loss; he was an icon who will remain forever in our hearts.
“His loss is also devastating for his family and many friends and, as we have seen through the Fight for Oli campaign, his positivity and passion to survive touched so many people in this close-knit community and beyond.
“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 the disease.
"We are determined to change this and we have to find a cure.
“Oli’s passing brings home to all of us that this is what we are all fighting for.
"The Ali’s Dream and Brain Tumour Research teams will not give up until we have improved outcomes for patients and their loved ones.
"No parent should have to lose a child to this most awful of diseases.
"No family should have to suffer the heartbreak of losing a loved one.”
The team at the Buckingham & Winslow Advertiser wish to express their sympathies and condolences to Oli's family and friends at this difficult time.