Steve is running the Brighton Half Marathon in memory of his brother Marc who was cared for by Martlets and died at the age of 20. He tells us about Marc and the care he received and explains why running the race to fundraise for Martlets means so much.
“Marc died back in 2003 at the age of 20 from bowel cancer. He would have turned 40 in November 2022, so I thought I’d sign up that month to run the Half Marathon in his memory.
He was a quiet person with a small group of friends and was into rugby and his gaming; he loved building computers as well. Marc was a typical older brother and we had a very topsy turvy relationship. But everything changed in an instant when I sat with him and he told me he had cancer and it was a terminal diagnosis. He was diagnosed on 28 May 2003 and died on 22 June that year. It all happened so suddenly; his decline was so rapid.
The amazing Martlets team came in and cared for Marc at home. I remember he had a great relationship with one of the nurses in particular; they almost felt like part of the family when they were with us.
We also got a lot of support from phoning the team at Martlets for advice. I had some counselling sessions which were quite a big help. I was only 19 though when it happened and it all felt too raw to really process at the time. It was hard to talk about and it took a few years until I could do that fully.
I remember the day Marc died like it was yesterday. He came into the living room to sit in his chair and told my Dad it’s time to go to bed. We all knew it was ‘time’ and later on in the evening one of the nurses told us that we needed to go into his room and be with him all together. I could see in her face that caring for Marc really meant something to her; she was really close to tears. She only cared for him for a short time and must’ve been used to coping with losing people as part of her job. But he was only 20 years old, and I think that had a big effect on everyone caring for him.
The key message I think he’d want to get across is get checked regularly and don’t let doctors dismiss symptoms that might be cancer just because you’re young. He was a strong person, 6ft 2ins, and it’s the hardest thing knowing that if he’d had the chance to fight it early on he might have survived.
Marc had been into hospital in January, because of loss of blood from the bowel, and he went back in April for some screenings. But because of his age they didn’t really think to check him for bowel cancer until the symptoms got more severe. By that point it was too late for treatment and the cancer was terminal. He knew something wasn’t right with his health and that his symptoms were worsening. If he’d just been diagnosed that bit earlier things might have been so different, but we’ll never know.
My mum also had bowel cancer and I lost her to it in 2011 when she was 47. I had a scare myself a couple of years ago as I was getting pains and some blood loss from my bowel. I ended up having emergency testing done and an endoscopy. Luckily it came back clear which was a massive relief. The doctors discovered that bowel cancer was down to a gene that runs in our family. The next step was to find out if I’d got the inherited gene. I went up for testing in London and it took a year for the results to come back. It was a long time to wait, and I had a lot of sleepless nights.
Remarkably though, even though my mum, my nan and my brother had the gene, my test came back negative. It’s such a relief to know I haven’t passed the gene on to my children. It doesn’t mean I definitely won’t get cancer, but at least I’m breaking the genetic chain in terms of passing it on.
I really want people to understand that hospice care isn’t just for older people. In Marc’s case he was just 20 years old. It could be you, your brother, or your friend, and it could happen at any time. That’s why we need to support Martlets so they can keep on being there for families like mine.
It’s why I ran the Brighton marathon back in 2018 for Martlets in memory of Mum and Marc, and why I’m running the Brighton Half Marathon this month. It’s been 20 years now since we lost him, a long time. It’ll be an emotional run, but I’ve got a playlist of songs that have so much significance for me. I’ll be putting on ‘Crying Your Heart Out’ by Oasis once I get to the West Pier to get me through to the finish line. That track was played at Marc’s funeral. My original target on my Just Giving page was £250, but now I’m keen to raise over £1,000 if I can. If you can donate that would be absolutely amazing and please come down and support all of us runners on the day.”
Our Martlets ‘cheer squad’ will be opposite the Peace Statue near miles 7 and 12 and we welcome everyone to come and join us.
At Martlets, we rely on our community for the majority of our funding. Please consider supporting other local families affected by terminal illness by making a donation, fundraising or volunteering for us. Together, we’ll help keep Martlets caring.