Essex dad dies after his brain tumour is misdiagnosed as sleep apnoea

James Lamerton and daughter Layla.
Credit: Family photo/Brain Tumour Research
James Lamerton leaves behind his wife an daughter Layla. Credit: Brain Tumour Research

A grief-stricken widow whose husband was misdiagnosed with sleep apnoea just weeks before dying of a brain tumour has spoken out in the hope that others can avoid his fate.

Myriam Lamerton’s husband James died in November 2021, just five weeks after being diagnosed with a brain tumour in his pineal gland, which was later diagnosed as a Grade 4 glioblastoma.

He was just 40 years old and had a two-year-old daughter, Layla.

The teacher and musician from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, was being treated for sleep apnoea at the time.

Mrs Lamerton, 32, who is now keen to raise awareness of the disease, said: “James had been tired for a while but I’d put it down to us having a newborn.

"When he started waking up regularly in the night to go to the toilet, I thought that was odd and encouraged him to go to the doctor to get checked out for prostate cancer, which is something his father had had.

Myriam and James Lamerton on their wedding day Credit: Brain Tumour Reseach

“Those tests came back clear and so in July we went on holiday to Tenerife but he started suffering from headaches and dizziness," she said.

He began having vision problems but when a scan came back clear, his doctor arranged for him to go to a sleep clinic.

“It was there we were told James had sleep apnoea and his dizziness and headaches were the result of him not sleeping enough, which seemed to make sense. But between August and mid-October I took him to the doctor eight times.”

In October, Mr Lamerton returned home from work saying that he had almost collapsed.

James, Myriam and Layla Lamerton. Credit: Family photo/Brain Tumour Research

His widow said: "James looked dreadfully pale so I told him to go to bed and relax but seven days later he was still there.

"Every day I told him he needed to go to the hospital but he insisted on resting. I wish I’d done something sooner but, in truth, I know it wouldn’t have changed anything.”

Her husband's condition continued to decline. He went days without eating and began vomiting and screaming about discomfort in his eye.

It was only then Mr Lamerton was given the MRI that detected his tumour and he underwent surgery. However, he suffered post-operative complications and died shortly after.

“I held James’ hand as he took his last breath and his heart stopped. He died peacefully, which was kind of beautiful in a way," said Mrs Lamerton.

She is now working with the charity Brain Tumour Research to raise awareness of brain tumours.

Despite killing more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, it has historically been allocated just 1% of the national spend on cancer research.

“We need to change people’s perceptions of brain tumours and for me that means changing the narrative to make people realise that this could also happen to them and the people they know and love. We have to do more," said Mrs Lamerton.

Charlie Allsebrook from the charity said: “While incredibly heart-breaking, James’ story is not unique; the pain his family are going through is, sadly, something we see time and time again.

"We’re trying to change that but it’s only by working together that we will be able to improve treatment option for patients and, ultimately, find a cure.

"We just hope that people sit up and pay attention because brain tumours are indiscriminate and could strike anyone of us at any time.”

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