Philippa Forrester talks for the first time of son’s life threatening brain tumour in support of The Brain Tumour Charity and their HeadSmart campaign

In 2016 Philippa Forrester and husband, photographer and wildlife cameraman Charlie Hamilton James, were told their eldest son was “probably going to die” of a rare brain tumour.  Forrester has chosen to ‘go public’ with their story now in order to raise awareness of The Brain Tumour Charity’s HeadSmart campaign for early diagnosis in what is Brain Tumour Awareness Month.
More than 30 children and young adults are diagnosed with a life threatening brain tumour every day and it’s the biggest killer disease of children in the UK.
Forrester, best know for presenting iconic shows including Tomorrow’s World, Robots Wars and Crufts, moved to the US with her family in 2014 as husband Hamilton James now works as a photographer for National Geographic Magazine.   Fred, who featured in the couple’s BBC1 hit series Halcyon River Diaries, was suffering from exhaustion and migraines, but Forrester was told by doctors that was ‘perfectly normal’ for any 15 year old boy whose parents also suffer from migraines.
It wasn’t until Fred complained he was struggling to focus on his computer that Forrester decided to have his eyes tested.  After an initial consultation, a second opinion was sought and it was then the seriousness of the situation became apparent.  A MRI was arranged for the next day and whilst waiting for the results Fred had his first seizure.
Forrester explains “In the emergency room, after settling Fred on IV anti seizure medication and reassuring him that he was going to be OK, we were led into another room and shown a picture of the scan. The doctor didn’t need to point anything out the tumour was so big it was hard to see anything else.”
It was then they were told the outcome was poor and their son may not survive long enough to receive the treatment he needed to save his life.   It was his father’s birthday and Hamilton James had to drive 4 hours to reach the hospital, as Fred was flown by air ambulance, not knowing whether his son would survive the journey, let alone the day.
Fred did survive and is making good progress.  The tumour was cancerous but slow growing, so with regular scans and medication, he is rebuilding his life and both his parents are thankful he didn’t need chemotherapy to radiotherapy.
Forrester is supporting The Brain Tumour Charity’s HeadSmart campaign for early diagnosis.  For more information, please visit

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