Royal Marine from Portsmouth fighting terminal brain cancer and given months to live writes inspirational book to help others

A FORMER Royal Marine, from Portsmouth, was given less than 18 months to live in March 2019 after doctors discovered an aggressive brain tumour in his front right temporal lobe.

By Hollie Busby
Saturday, 29th January 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Saturday, 29th January 2022, 9:32 am

Now nearly three years on post diagnosis, Rian Ilett, 33, has published a book combining his battlefield and brain tumour experiences on overcoming the odds in the face of adversity.

In March 2020, Rian put pen to paper, despite having never read a book in his life, to write a memoir of his journey.

Now his book, ‘Every Day is a Battle: Fighting demons, Jihadi’s and terminal cancer’, has been released on Amazon boasting a wealth of positive reviews.

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Rian Ilett in Eastney Picture: Habibur Rahman

Rian’s shock brain tumour diagnosis came after he was hit by an anti-tank missile in an ISIS attack in the Middle East in January 2019.

Doctors found he had a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) - a fast growing and incurable tumour in the brain.

Rian, who served 15 years in the armed forces, said: ‘I suffered injuries, including concussion and ringing in my ears, so I was flown home for tests at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM) at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

‘The tests didn’t reveal anything of concern and, keen to get back to work, I persuaded my chain of command to allow me to return to the Middle East to resume my duties.’

Rian Ilett serving with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan and the Middle East

During a month off for rest and recreation, Rian returned to the UK and agreed that in this time, he would go back to Birmingham for an MRI scan. It was then that doctors discovered the mass on his brain.

‘When they told me they’d found something, at first, I thought it must have been connected to the incident the previous month.

‘I had a combination of military and NHS consultants. The military doctors tended to be more forthright and one of them sat me down and said it was a tumour and that it looked like cancer.’

On March 20, 2019 Rian had a craniotomy - a procedure in which a bone flap is temporarily removed from the skull to access the brain.

Rian Ilett serving in Afghanistan and the Middle East

The operation, carried out by neurosurgeon Dr Ismail Ughratdar was successful.

However, devastatingly, when the biopsy came back Rian was given a stark prognosis. He was told then that he had 15 to 18 months to live.

But Rian was a fighter and refused to let this get him down.

‘What choice did I have but to just get on with it?,’ he said.

Former Royal Marine Rian Ilett after brain surgery

The next step was six weeks of daily radiotherapy and concurrent chemotherapy, taken in tablet form.

‘I was also put on a clinical trial, which involved having intravenous chemo but that soon stopped, as it was impacting my eyesight. I continued on the oral chemotherapy, finishing my last cycle in December 2019.’

When Rian returned to work, his treatment meant he could no longer be deployed overseas.

Instead, he was tasked with organising pre-deployment packages for colleagues going on tour.

Rian echoes his frustration, and despite being warned against it kept up his physical fitness by regularly going to the gym.

‘I was usually the first man to volunteer for operations.

Rian Ilett when serving in the Royal Marines

‘I kept up my fitness, however, going to the gym everyday while I was on chemo. I really believed that it helped me to cope with it.

‘During my last cycle, I even managed to take part in a race up the highest peak in south Wales, Pen y Fan, beating quite a few of my peers, who were in good health.’

When the pandemic hit the UK in March 2020 and Rian was told to stay at home, rather than go into work, he started putting pen to paper.

He said: ‘Having never even read a book before, I embarked upon writing a memoir. The idea came from people close to me, who encouraged me to write about my many and varied experiences.

‘I really enjoyed the process. Sometimes I’d phone people to chat about a particular period and it was a good opportunity to catch up with people I hadn’t spoken to for a long time. Around 21 months after I first started writing, in December 2021, my book, was released on Amazon.’

One of the main themes of Rian’s debut book is overcoming adversity. He’s ‘laid everything bare’ in the hope that it will help others.

Rian said: ‘I saw too many people in the cancer treatment centre, who seemed to have given up on life.

‘My main message is that even when the odds are stacked against you, a positive mindset goes a long way. I was medically discharged from the Marines in December 2021 but my fight is far from over.

‘The book is my story of never giving up. Despite being told I should have been dead more than a year ago, I am still here to tell this tale.’

Rian is working with the charity Brain Tumour Research, to help raise awareness of brain tumours.

Mel Tiley, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: ‘Rian’s story is one of hope and inspiration. I’m not surprised he’s received such positive feedback for his book already, many of the reviews touching on Rian’s incredible strength and positivity through such tough times.

‘Rian’s brain tumour diagnosis is a stark reminder of the indiscriminate nature of the disease. It can affect anyone, at any time. As a charity, our vision is to find a cure for brain tumours.

‘We thank Rian sincerely for working with us to help raise awareness of brain tumours and the issues surrounding the disease.’