In 2012, Martyn’s son Shaun sadly passed away, after over a year of treatment for leukaemia and a stem cell transplant.
Now Martyn is participating in the Great North Run to raise vital funds for Anthony Nolan; in this moving, heartfelt blog, he pays tribute to the son who inspired him to take on an incredible challenge.
Shaun was a wonderful and remarkable son in every way you can imagine. He was thoughtful, conscientious, funny, charming and had a massive heart, to name but a few. He did have his moments over the years – but I would say that, I am his Dad.
Let’s start at the beginning; it’s a very good place to start (as the words of the song say). Shaun started university in 2010 in Barnsley, Yorkshire. He was studying digital film and effects. He always wanted to be a director or editor of films or TV; what he didn’t know about films you could write on the back of a postage stamp.
He used to tell you all about the director, producer and editor before the credits would roll…which used to be quite annoying at times, especially when you were enjoying the film!
When he was a teenager, he wrote a script in his spare time called ‘Raging for Life’ (which his step-sister Catrin named).
His dream was to make it into a feature film, and around six months into university life he finally got that dream, using the university’s equipment. With his friends he arranged everything, from extras to catering, and shot the film on location around the Barnsley area.
The funding came from asking local companies and shops for donations; all in all, he manged to raise around £1,000, which was an achievement in itself.
But in July 2011, he began passing out frequently on set, and was taken to the local Barnsley hospital on multiple occasions; he was always discharged home, having been told that it was just university life and not eating properly.
Finally, his bloods were taken, and Shaun was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Shaun was then transferred to the Royal Hallamshire Sheffield hospital for his first round of chemotherapy. (We later decided to move him nearer to home, at The Royal Liverpool Hospital – we live in North Wales).
After finishing the first round of chemotherapy the disease, sadly, was not beaten.
This is when his consultant decided that he would give Shaun a bone marrow transplant, and so began the first contact with Anthony Nolan.
The donor was a 50-year-old German lady who travelled across the country to donate (and this is all we know to this day) to whom we will always be eternally grateful to.
As time passed, Shaun had ups and downs, and sometimes was discharged home for short periods, only to find ourselves back in the Royal Liverpool Hospital after him taking a dip in health. This continued for a good few months, with me staying with Shaun in his hospital room on the floor on a blow-up bed. Not ideal, but I would not do anything for my boy.
By December 2012, Shaun had been in hospital (on and off) for over a year, but this month it was continuous, Shaun then took a sudden dip in health, and ended up in ITU with failing lungs and other organs due to infection.
The staff did all they could, even giving him antibiotics that cost over £500 per vial, and returning to Anthony Nolan for a top-up donation from the lovely German lady. We couldn’t be any more grateful to her for her selfless act.
In the end, Shaun was placed on a ventilator with a hood, as he could not tolerate the CPAP over his mouth any longer. I remember trying to make him laugh in such awful circumstances. I joked with him that he looked like Buzz Lightyear (and where was Woody?), which Shaun appreciated – he had a superb sense of humour, despite everything he went through.
By this time he was drifting in and out of consciousness, so you couldn’t hold a very long conversation with him; the most communication was some hand gestures and some grunts.
On the 12th December, with his vital organs failing, one of the last things he did was put his thumbs up to me and smile, and at 1.10pm he sadly lost his fight.
Leukaemia had finally won and took our gorgeous boy from us; he has left a massive hole in my soul, and in my wife Maria’s and Catrin’s.
We miss him every second of every day. Maria says he is our snowflake: unique, but they are gone too soon from your life.
So why the Great North Run for Anthony Nolan?
After Shaun had passed away, I decided to be kinder to my body, and go on a diet and undertake more exercise, so I decided to do a little cycle ride from London to Paris in 2014 for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, which raised around £1,500.
After cycling I decided I needed a further challenge and decided to take up running. Last year I ran my first half marathon and a few 10Ks; by this time, I had lost 7 stone in weight and felt a lot better for it.
Afterwards, I thought another half marathon would be good – but I didn’t want it to be just any challenge. I wanted to do the Great North Run after seeing it on the TV. I thought that it looked fantastic, and the atmosphere looked amazing.
I applied and selected Anthony Nolan, because they were fantastic in obtaining not one bone marrow donation but two.
I hope to raise as much money as possible by September. I have a few fundraising days coming up in 2017 and have friends who are also fundraising on my behalf, I have set up a JustGiving page, so friends and family can keep an eye on how things are progressing.
It is currently raining here at home, so training is hard in this sort of weather, but I continue to train 2-3 times a week, work permitting!
Catrin is now at university studying Criminal Investigations with Policing studies, and I know how proud her big brother would be of her.
There is one person that I would like to mention in all of this – my wife Maria. Without her I could not have continued doing anything, from the cycle ride to the Great North Run.
Over the years she has been my rock; without her encouragement and support I would never have been successful. I love and respect her forever.
If you’d like to show your support for Martyn, please do visit his JustGiving page for the Great North Run.