Candid With Cancer #8 – My Second Cancer Diagnosis
Thomas Ashley details his battle against AML as part of a new weekly blog
Matthew Gaut will be lacing up his running shoes and tackling over 230 miles across five days with a bold and ambitious fundraising target of £100,000. After completing the charity’s London2Paris cycle last year (including running the first 65 mile stage on foot), he is going to extreme lengths to help launch a pioneering trials network to connect kids with potentially lifesaving treatments.
Matthew is raising funds on behalf of his son, Harry, who tragically passed away in 2016 just eight days after his 6th birthday. Harry was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) in 2013 at only two years of age. Following the diagnosis, he bravely underwent over three years of treatment before entering into remission.
In 2016 he developed Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) which cruelly progressed and developed into Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML), with a Stem Cell Transplant offering the only hope. He fought like a lion but sadly reacted to the stem cell transplant unfavourably and tragically passed away on 21st September 2016 at St George’s Hospital, Tooting. On the morning of his passing, the family went back to the Royal Marsden in Sutton where his bed was waiting for him. None of the hospital staff expected him not to return.
Explaining how he and his wife Debbie have channelled their grief in a bid to support other families experiencing the pain they once felt, Matt commented:
“When we went back to the Royal Marsden in Sutton on the morning we lost Harry, the staff were so good and kept his room for three weeks. There was a lovely nurse and she gave us both a big hug before saying ‘You will never get over it.’ She was absolutely right, but you learn to live with it.”
“I sat back and there was never going to be anything I could contribute, so you leave it to the experts. I can’t cure it but I can run, so maybe we will try that. Harry is gone but would be proud of what we’re doing. If whatever we do benefits one child, then it would be entirely worth it.”
Matthew is an avid Liverpool fan and is fully aware of how the football helps in the most testing of times with one of his favourite footie anthems helping him through the tough training runs.
“Football is a great unifier. You don’t know the dad by the hospital bed opposite you with a little kid in the same position as my Harry, but if he is wearing a Liverpool shirt you know you have something in common. Football gets you out of your current reality for 90 minutes. Instead of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” for me that becomes “You Will Never Run Alone” as that is what I am singing along when I go running in the darkness. We will have that sung a lot on the way to Paris.”
Matthew added: “The work that the Cure Leukaemia team are doing is raising vital funds to combat this awful disease. I’m grateful to have found a charity that now feels like an extension of my family. We are now forever entwined, and I will go on doing whatever I can until I draw my last breath.”
“Harry was such a happy, loving and brave little boy who never complained about his illness and we are so very proud of him. No one should have to go through what that little boy endured.”
“Despite the incredible advances and research over the years into this cruel disease, it still takes far too many lives – young and old.”