Edinburgh comic book artist who shared touching terminal brain tumour story in BBC film dies

An Edinburgh comic book artist who shared his touching terminal brain tumour story in a BBC documentary earlier this year has died.

Gordon Shaw, 41, was diagnosed with a low-grade brain tumour at the age of 32, after first being told he had probably suffered a stroke.

The tumour progressed to a grade 3 astrocytoma, but in December 2021, Gordon was told his tumour had progressed to a highly aggressive glioblastoma (GBM) and he had just months to live.

Leith-based Gordon, who had been working with the charity Brain Tumour Research to raise awareness of the devastating disease, died on Sunday, (September 11).

Comic book artist Gordon Shaw, who was diagnosed with a low-grade brain tumour at the age of 32, has died aged 41.

His brother, Craig Shaw, wrote on Facebook: “Gordon passed away peacefully yesterday afternoon with his partner Shawn by his side, the way I know he would have wanted it.

“At this time, I can't put into words how much we all loved him, he was an incredible young man who not only fought this horrible disease for ten years but went out his way to help others along that journey. To say I'm proud of him really doesn't seem enough.

“I'd like to thank everyone who sent him videos, funny voice messages or came to visit him.

“Gordon loved to laugh so it was right we filled his last few days with some fantastic memories, to know he was loved by so many will certainly help us over the next weeks and months.”

Gordon’s partner, Shawn Puller, wrote on Facebook: “Yesterday afternoon, my partner Gordon Shaw passed away. For the past week his brother Craig and I have held vigil, wept tears, shared laughter and surrounded Gordon with love.

“Many thanks to those who sent messages, videos or stopped in to tell stories, hold his hand and reminisce. He was heroic. Truly, truly heroic.

“I don’t really have any words right now. The world is a better place for having had Gordon in it. I am a better man due to his love.”

Since being diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour, Gordon published five comic books – the first three looked at families and friends to understand what it was like for them living with their cancer and in the fourth, titled Bittersweet, Gordon changed the focus to himself and opened up about his own experience with cancer. His fifth book focused on unpaid carers.

In March 2022, Gordon’s brain tumour story and his long-distance love with Shawn, an American man he met in June 2017, was the focus of the BBC film Long Live My Happy Head.

The film premiered at the BFI Flare Festival and was shown at cinemas across the UK.

The producer/directors of production company Melt The Fly, Will Hewitt and Austen McCowan said: “Gordon will be remembered for his wonderful sense of humour, his empathy, kindness and generosity to others, and of course his irresistible smile and wonderfully expressive eyebrows.

“He will also be remembered for the beautiful and insightful comics and artwork he created which will continue to comfort and inspire all those who come into contact with it.

“Gordon was incredibly proud of the film we made together, as are his friends and family, and we are extremely grateful for the support you've shown in helping to share their story.”

Hugh Adams, Head of Stakeholder Relations at Brain Tumour Research, said: “We’re deeply saddened to learn that Gordon has died from this devastating disease and our thoughts are with all those who knew and loved him.

“We are really grateful to Gordon for working with us, as it’s only with the support of people like him that we’re able to progress our research into brain tumours and improve the outcome for patients like Gordon who are forced to fight this awful disease.

Brain tumours are indiscriminate. They can affect anyone at any time. Too little is known about the causes and that is why increased investment in research is vital.”

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