Ric Hopwood

There is the usual look of fatherly pride in Ric Hopwood’s eyes when he sees his son Noah kick a ball for his new football team or hears his daughter Mia’s gymnastic coach say she is ready for competition. But there is something else there as well.


Because at the age his children are now at, Ric was diagnosed with a brain tumour and brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children in the UK.

Ric was born in Dewsbury and grew up in Birstall, near Leeds, and it was here that he first noticed incredibly painful headaches when watching children’s TV in that afternoon slot that it always held between getting home from school and eating tea. 

When you are five though, how are you supposed to know that that isn’t the norm? 

Ric’s parents did have some concerns about his balance and co-ordination as well, so took him to see the local GP, Dr. Miller. 

It was Ric’s 6th birthday when he visited the doctor and the initial excitement of having the day off school finished with him being taken to hospital, somewhere he was very nervous about going. Dr. Miller happened to have diagnosed someone with the same symptoms only a few weeks earlier. Her knowledge and experience was essential in getting Ric the early treatment he needed. Sadly, this is not always the case for people with brain tumours and shows the benefits of raising awareness for both the general public and for medical professionals. 

Ric had a CT scan the next day, was allowed to go home, and then returned for an operation to remove the tumour a week later. He had been diagnosed with a benign cerebellar astrocytoma, located at the base of the skull towards the back of his head. He was at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) for 5 weeks initially, and distinctly remembers feeling very weak. He had to learn to eat again, had no strength particularly down his right hand side, and needed physio to be able to walk again.  

Difficult memories would always come flooding back when he returned to the hospital for appointments, with so many, one after another for a few years, but one happy memory stood out. One day, despite struggling to walk and with a drip by his side, he saw his grandparents coming to visit and ran excitedly towards them – with the drip on wheels careering along behind him! 

When asked about the effects of the brain tumour, Ric told us: “In the immediate aftermath of the tumour removal I had to learn to eat again. I was fed by a tube, through my nose, then had a second operation to put one into my stomach. The tube wasn’t as easy to remove as they expected – I remember it hurting like hell- so I needed a third operation to get it out.”

“The tumour affected the right side of my face causing a facial palsy. To this day I can’t smile a nice symmetrical smile as my mouth always drifts to the left. Years of physiotherapy and a fourth operation made it better than it was though.”

Ric was back in school mostly uninterrupted from Y3, but the regular appointments meant he was never fully done with it throughout his school years and into early adulthood.  

One of the most annoying lingering problems was numerous eye infections. Because of the facial palsy, Ric was left unable to blink properly with his right eye. In his early-20s, he had an operation to stitch part of the eye to prevent possibly losing the eye altogether due to constant infections.

It isn’t just physically that Ric was affected. He told us how the brain tumour impacted on his mental health. 

“It took me years to understand the effects on my mental health. Back then, I don’t think it was considered.” 

“I know now, looking back that, for a number of years after recovery, I was struggling mentally. I wasn’t really able to explain why and everyone said ‘Stop worrying, it’s not going to come back.’”

“I think everyone’s a bit more open to mental health now to realise that they were all sorts of reasons why I was pretty quiet and withdrawn, not just in those early years but for about a decade and a half after. It’s still something that can plague me from time to time but not quite the way it did.”

But, Ric is here, and is now a father and loving it. He missed out on his childhood to some extent so tries to ensure his kids get to do everything they want – within reason! He loves that, in contrast, they have a relatively worry-free childhood.

“My partner Sarah and I have got two great, confident kids who love life and grasp opportunities with both hands.” Ric said.

Ric had some advice for children living with brain tumours now. He said, “I didn’t really want to hear ‘it will be OK’ and stories of survivors like me. “But trust the experts and let them get you fit and raring to go again.” Knowing success stories like Ric’s will hopefully inspire others. 

As well as being a father, Ric runs his own business, Hopwood Creative Ltd, specialising in web and graphic design. He enjoys time with his family, local history and photography. He also follows the trials and tribulations of Leeds United in football and Wakefield Trinity in rugby league.

He is a strong believer that experience shapes you and determines the person you become. Ric uses the emotions he felt on visits to hospital to drive himself forward and prove he can do more than some might expect. 

He has been belittled and prejudiced over the years, but his key piece of advice was not to bury the past and run away from it but to ‘own it as much as you can’ and use it to lead a happy and fulfilling life.