This year, Kyle will be running the London Marathon in memory of his son Reece. Here is their story:
I will never forget the day when I received a text from my son saying: ‘Dad, where are you?’
It wasn’t the sort of text which he normally sent to me, and I knew that he really needed to talk. I am a long-haul pilot with Virgin Atlantic and I was away, but I called him straight away. When he told me that he had cancer so many different emotions rushed through me, such as sadness and horror. As a parent, I felt so helpless and I just wanted to protect him. I tried not to show my emotions on the call as it’s not what he needed but when I got off the phone I had a good cry. He’d had a lump in his hand and when a hand surgeon removed it they initially thought it was benign. Follow up tests had shown that he had Rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the soft tissues.
He was quickly referred to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at Southampton General Hospital and had four lots of chemotherapy. He was told that he’d have to have further surgery on his hand to remove more soft tissue, but they said to make sure they got it all they’d need to amputate a finger. Reece wanted to do whatever he could to get rid of the cancer, so he went for it. He was so strong. He had another five lots of chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy.
His treatment finished at the end of October 2015 and we were looking forward to Christmas. But on Christmas day he found a lump in his armpit and a CT scan confirmed it had spread. He started more chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy at the Southampton Teenage Cancer Trust Unit. This finished at the end of July 2016.
In September 2016 he started his foundation course at Bristol university. He was popular with his lecturers and fellow students, was on the ski team and edited a music paper, and met a beautiful young lady called Isabelle; life looked rosy for him.
But in December 2016 a routine CT scan showed that the tumour in his armpit was growing again and he tried to push Isabelle away to save her from the pain, but she stuck by him. She was so strong.
In February 2017, they tried to remove the tumour. This was not a great success and the cancer then became very aggressive, so much so that in May they decided they’d need to amputate his right arm. I couldn’t imagine my fit, young, right-handed son losing his arm, but he decided to do it to improve his chances. A subsequent PET scan showed that the cancer had spread further and was now in his lungs and spine and they said that the surgery would not help and that he would now be on Palliative Chemotherapy. He took a downturn and was given two days to live and I had to have the difficult conversation about whether he’d want to be resuscitated and where he would want to be buried. He pulled around and with the team were able to move his treatment to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit in Bristol so that he could continue at university, even though his brain was foggy from the painkillers.
Reece came home at Christmas but was suffering badly from the pain. In February 2018 he was admitted to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit in Southampton as the pain wasn’t under control. By now his doctors were telling him that the palliative chemotherapy was having no effect. His expression when they said there was nothing further they could do will be with me until the day I die. The light just went out of his eyes.
During his remaining time with us, myself, his mum, the family and Isabelle spent a lot of time at the hospital with him as did his friends.
On the day he died, it was Isabelle who noticed that he had stopped breathing. It was a very emotional time and the staff left us with him for a couple of hours to say our goodbyes and comfort each other.
During Reece’s final weeks, we had watched the Virgin Money London Marathon together on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit in Southampton and two of the staff we both knew were in it. He asked me if I would do it for Teenage Cancer Trust. I thought about it and I thought ‘he’s asking me to, I need to do it’.
I applied for a place and was able to tell Reece I got in before he died. I’m running this for him as he was very keen to give back to Teenage Cancer Trust, but he was never able to.
The staff on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit were very, very good. Lots of them got Reece’s sense of humour and would make light of things as they knew that’s what he wanted. They would always listen and do everything they could to help.
The facilities were great too. His room had an en-suite, a TV and stereo, a desk for him to study at, and a pull-out bed so he could have people staying with him. He didn’t want to be by himself so it’s great that there was always room for people to stay with him.
There was a common room with an X-box, loads of DVDs, a coffee machine and a big craft table. Reece didn’t do hospital food, so it was great that there was a kitchen and a microwave, and he could have some of my wife’s home cooking. There was also a quiet room which was great during his final days.
Reece dealt with his treatment in the most incredible way; I called him my young lion. He did me proud and now I want to do him proud by running this for him. I want to do it in four hours and raise £5,000 for Teenage Cancer Trust along the way. I have had an injury set back in my training, but I used to run a lot in the army, so I am confident that I can do it.