An ‘ultra-running’ doctor and father of four whose son underwent months of gruelling treatment for cancer is set to take on a 12-hour challenge in aid of a Blackpool children’s hospice.
Dr Mark Johnston, who works at NHS Blackpool’s Clinical Commissioning Group, will run on a treadmill for 12 hours to raise funds for Brian House, in Bispham.
In September 2013 his five-year-old son, Riley, was diagnosed with an advanced form of kidney cancer called a Wilms tumour. The cancer had already spread to his lungs and lymph nodes.
He underwent 10 months of treatment - all at Manchester Children’s Hospital – which included chemotherapy every week, a major operation to remove a kidney, radiotherapy (requiring a general anaesthetic every day for a month) and various other tests.
Thankfully, Riley responded well to the initial treatment, but will continue to be monitored up until adulthood because of the significant risks associated with Wilms.
Brian House Children’s Hospice provides vital support to families who have to deal with the news that their child’s illness isn’t curable.
And it is for this reason that Dr Johnston, who is an ultra runner who regularly covers distances longer than a marathon, is seeking to raise as much sponsorship money as possible.
He said: “To watch our son go through what he has, has been horrendous.
“For his brothers and other close families members to see what he has had to endure has also been incredibly tough for them.
“We can only imagine how incredibly hard it must be for families who have to come to terms with a worse situation than which we experienced.
“The support and care Brian House provide to families at the most difficult times of life is amazing. Running provided me with an escape during the dark times of being the dad of a son with cancer. At times I’m not sure how I would have coped without the release of a good hard run.
“The physical pain was a pleasant break from the emotional turmoil and gave me time to think and get myself straight so that I could be there for Riley and my family. It helped me hugely.”
Dr Johnston will tackle the treadmill from 8am – 8pm on Saturday, November 22 in the lead up to the seventh annual Tinkerbell Ball which is being held at The Grand Hotel, Lytham, that evening. The Ball is held every year to raise funds for Brian House.
He hopes to cover a distance that would take him as far as Manchester Children’s Hospital. To sponsor Mark visit www.justgiving.com/tinkerbellball.