Karl Martin and his family have raised huge amounts of money for charity since he was diagnosed five years ago with an inoperable tumour. Suzanne Chesterton met him.
THIS year is a year Karl Martin, his wife Lauren, and their children Alisha, six, and Alfie, two, were told they would never see together.
In January 2010 surgeons broke the news that Karl’s previously benign brain tumour had turned cancerous and he had only 18 months to live.
“I can’t even put into words how I felt when we were told,” says 32-year-old Karl. “I was absolutely distraught.
“I spent the following few hours agonising over whether to have surgery.
“The consultant said it could extend my life, but because it’s located in the area that affects my motor skills I was likely to lose the function of the whole of my right side.
“They would also have to wake me up in the middle of the operation once they’d cut me open and I’d have to endure four hours of torture while they decided millimetre by millimetre how much they could take away.
“In the end, I chose quality over quantity,” said Karl. “I wanted my children to remember me walking and talking as I am now.
“I still get tired easily, but I’d rather spend a few days recovering in bed if I’ve done too much than my children having to push me around in a wheelchair the rest of my life.”
So instead, Karl underwent a six-week intensive course of radiotherapy at St James’s Hospital, Leeds, in May 2010 and has been having regular checkups ever since.
On December 6, they were told that the results of his latest scan show his condition is stable, but his prognosis is unfortunately still terminal.
Over the past two years life has changed dramatically for Karl, Lauren and their two children. They were forced to give up their five-bedroomed detached home and move into a bungalow. Karl has had to give up work as he can’t drive and he has to have someone with him around the clock because he has regular epileptic fits.
“Our two-year-old, Alfie, saw me have a seizure for the first time a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “I thought he’d run a million miles but he didn’t. I was on the sofa and he just came up and kissed me on the cheek and lay with his head resting on mine until the ambulance came.
“Although this was only a partial seizure I lost the ability to speak. For about four hours I couldn’t string two words together. I couldn’t remember my own date of birth or when I got married. All I knew were my children’s names and that my parents and my wife were at the hospital with me.”
Despite all this Karl and his family have invested a lot of time and effort into raising thousands of pounds for Brain Tumour Research.
“It’s not for me,” he said. “My future’s set in stone. It’s for Alisha, Alfie and all the other children out there. Brain tumours are now the biggest cancer killer in children. I’ve got kids. I know what it’s like to think I’m not going to be there for them, but to lose one of my children would destroy me.”
A campaign has been set up online by people affected by brain tumours to try to force the Government to look at investing more funds into research. The e-petition needs 100,000 signatures by June 19 to be tabled in the House of Commons.
“I want to ask them where all the money is,” says Karl. “We’re talking about the biggest childhood killer here, and there’s hardly any money invested in it. There are people out there who can do the research, who’ve got the knowledge, but they can’t fund staff to help them at this moment in time.
“Right now it’s out of our hands, but if we can get those 100,000 signatures on that petition the Government would have no choice but to sit up and listen. I would be quite happy to go to Downing Street with neurologists, consultants and other sufferers and show them the reality of this disease that’s plaguing our country.”
Names can be added at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/17419
Tumours beat leukaemia as the biggest childhood cancer killer in this country. More children in the UK die every year from brain tumours than any other cancer. The findings from Brain Tumour Research (BTR) also show it’s the largest cancer killer among people under the age of 40, with one in every four malignant tumours eventually spreading to the brain. Yet despite this less than one per cent of all national cancer spending invested into brain tumour research.
Karl has also written a poem about his experience which he hopes will help raise awareness of the condition.
My Tumour and Me by Karl Martin
In days gone by a Surgeon once said, “You’ve got a tumour inside your head.”
“Are you sure Mr Surgeon,” was my reply, with a quivering lip and a tear in my eye.
He held in his grasp my MRI scan; he showed it to me with a shaky hand.
I sat and I looked at what I could see, a tumour was growing inside of me.
“What the hell do I do now I’m only a lad, not only that I’m also a dad.”
“I’m sorry my boy, what can I say, your life’s changed forever from this very day.”
So I set about battling this retched disease, it was on top for a while and winning with ease.
But as time progressed my confidence grew, with all my heart my courage did too.
You’ve taken my job, my car and my pride, yet my wife and my children stand strong by my side.
For almost five years we’ve battled each other, I suppose we could have even been brothers.
I thought we agreed to end this row, but you tricked me, turned cancerous, well done, take a bow.
So we stand here again all battered and bruised, I’m fighting a battle I’m destined to lose.
But you can’t take away who I am, what I’ve got, you see my old friend I’ve got the lot.
My family, my friends, my kids and my wife, they all love me dearly and they are my life.
So take your best shot now, come on feel free, because I will live on in them but you’ll die with me!
Tumours kill more children
More children in the UK die every year from brain tumours than any other cancer. The findings from Brain Tumour Research (BTR) also show it’s the largest cancer killer amongst people under the age of 40, with one in every four malignant tumours eventually spreading to the brain. Yet less than one per cent of all national cancer spending invested into brain tumour research.
A campaign has been set up online by people affected by brain tumours to try to force the Government to look at investing more funds into research.
The e-petition needs 100,000 signatures by June 19 to be tabled in The House of Commons.