Fife milliner turns ‘Wear A Hat Day’ into fundraiser in memory of brother

A Fife milliner turning is ’Wear A Hat Day’ into a poignant fundraiser in memory of her younger brother who died from a brain tumour.
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Professor Paul Younger, 55, an internationally-renowned hydrogeologist and environmental engineer from Glasgow, died from a glioblastoma (GBM) in April 2018, just 21 months after being diagnosed.

Now, his sister, Julie Cavanagh, 62, will be joined by 15 women for Wear A Hat Day for the charity Brain Tumour Research on Friday (March 31).

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Julie, a retired doctor from Cupar, said: “When Paul was diagnosed, I realised he probably wouldn’t have long to live. It was devastating, you expect your younger sibling to outlive you. I’m dedicating our hat making workshop on Wear A Hat Day to the memory of Paul.

Paul Younger and (inset) Julie Cavanagh (right) and sister Tricia (Pics: Brain Tumour Research)Paul Younger and (inset) Julie Cavanagh (right) and sister Tricia (Pics: Brain Tumour Research)
Paul Younger and (inset) Julie Cavanagh (right) and sister Tricia (Pics: Brain Tumour Research)

“There is still so much work to be done to improve treatments and survival rates so people can get better prognoses. We can only get there through research so it’s important to raise funds for this excellent cause.”

In September 2016, Paul, who held the University of Glasgow's Rankine Chair in the School of Engineering, phoned his sister while he was on holiday in France.

Julie said: “He told me that every third word he was saying was not what he’d intended to say and didn’t make sense. He knew what he was saying was wrong but he just couldn’t say the words he intended. It was clear something wrong was going on in his brain.”

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Paul, dad to Tom, 33, and Dominic and Callum, both 30, had an emergency MRI scan in France and was immediately referred for surgery when he returned to Scotland. He underwent an awake craniotomy at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow to remove the tumour.

Paul Younger with his family in Iceland (Pic: Brain Tumour Research)Paul Younger with his family in Iceland (Pic: Brain Tumour Research)
Paul Younger with his family in Iceland (Pic: Brain Tumour Research)

Julie said: “When we found out Paul had a GBM I knew he would have maybe two years at best, but he was extremely hopeful he would be one of the exceptions and would live a few more years. He was aware of his prognosis but he didn’t want to believe it.”

After surgery, radiotherapy and a year-long course of chemotherapy, Paul was well enough to go on a family expedition to Iceland with his wife, Louise, and his grown up sons.

“He was a big strapping man who loved nothing more than being on top of a mountain,” said Julie. “The treatment bought him some healthy months before things started to go downhill. His walking and speech, and his ability to eat gradually declined, it was very difficult.”

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Paul moved into the Marie Curie hospice in Stobhill, Glasgow, in March 2018. He died on April 21, 2018 with his wife, sons and his sisters by his side.

He was at the pinnacle of a highly distinguished career when the GBM was discovered. After his death, the Paul Younger Energy Centre in Hebburn, South Tyneside, was named as a tribute to Paul’s key role in Newcastle University’s pioneering research to drill for geothermal energy in the city.

In Paul’s memory, Julie will lead a fascinator making workshop with members of St Columba’s Catholic Church ladies’ group as part of Wear A Hat Day. The theme of this year’s event is to look super for science.

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