Martin Bown already had a very good reason to run a marathon for a brain injury charity, but the race also ended up marking his own fightback from testicular cancer. Catherine Scott reports.
Martin Bown had never felt better. He was about to turn 40, was the fittest he had been for 20 years and was about to run the London marathon.
But just a few months later he was under going surgery and chemotherapy for testicular cancer.
Now Martin is writing a blog for Yorkshire Cancer Research in a bid to raise awareness of testicular cancer.
“I had no other symptoms other than a painful lump in one of my testicles,” explains the dad-of-two from Kirkburton.
“I told my wife Tina straight away and she said that I should make an appointment to see my GP straight away. But, like many men, by the time the appointment came round I had convinced myself that the lump wasn’t as big or painful. It was my wife who insisted that I still keep my appointment.”
Although the GP said they thought it was nothing sinister, Martin had his doubts.
“I’d had a cyst before and this was nothing like that.”
A urine sample proved negative and another GP said they thought it might be a running injury. But Martin asked to be referred for an ultrasound which confirmed his worst fears; he had testicular cancer.
“It took three weeks for the ultrasound appointment, which was actually one of the worst times. In that time the swelling became more tender, the lump bigger, the testicle much harder. I eventually found using the clutch on the car too difficult, I had to stop running, and was moving around very carefully.
“The ultrasound confirmed the presence of a lump, and from there everything moved very quickly. Within a week I was having surgery and being referred to the oncologists.”
Martin was diagnosed with a grade two tumour, as the cancer had spread to parts of his lower abdomen.
He is quite old for this type of cancer to strike as it normally hits men in their 20s and 30s, although Martin said while he was having treatment he saw men in their 50s with the disease.
He under went nine weeks of chemotherapy and although he had been forced to give up the running he loved he was determined to put his trainers back as soon as possible.
“The one thing I really wanted to do when I was diagnosed with cancer was go for a very long run, I find it really helps to clear my head,
“Of course, having had surgery to remove a tumour, I wasn’t able to. At my first opportunity to run, I pulled on my shoes and ran two miles. I returned exhausted. In total, I ran four times, and a total of nine miles, during my nine weeks of chemotherapy.” Before he was diagnosed with cancer Martin had arranged to run the Brighton marathon in April.
“When I was diagnosed I said to my wife that would ruin my chances of taking part in the marathon, but my onchologist asked me when it was and said he could see no reason why I couldn’t do it. It also gave me something to aim for.”
So just four months after he was told he was in remission Martin took to the streets of Brighton and amazingly smashed the previous time he ran in London in 2011.
Accountancy expert Martin crossed the finish line in three hours and 42 minutes, knocking 31 minutes off his previous time.
“In the weeks running up to the marathon I was really nervous, but as soon as I started running I just loved it. I felt great and loved absolutely every moment of it.”
What made the race even more special was that Martin was running for Cerebra, the charity which helps families with brain injured children.
“My daughter Isabella was diagnosed with cerebal palsy when she was a baby,” explains Martin who along with Tina are ambassadors for the charity.
“They don’t know what caused it but it means she will be a wheelchair user all her life.” Four-year-old Isabella was born ten weeks early and weighing less than three pounds. Although her parents were told she would not be allowed home for seven weeks, she actually made it home in five.
Doctors are unsure just how the cerebral palsy will affect Isabella in the future
She can talk and is managing to feed herself.
She has weekly physiotherapy and attends Paces School for conductive education in High Green, Sheffield, four mornings a week.
“Isabella loves going to Paces. She’s doing really well and is even learning to take steps and feed herself. She has great speech and is an amazing little girl.”
So when Martin was diagnosed with cancer last year he had more reason than most to want, and need, to beat the disease. He also has a son, Joshua, two.
“I was okay at the time, but it has actually hit me harder since all the treatment has stopped. Once I was diagnosed everything moved so quickly that you don’t get much time to think. At the time I just got on with it. But it is now that everything has calmed down that you start to think about the what ifs and it becomes emotionally tough.
“That is one of the reasons I am doing the blog. I want to raise awareness of testicular cancer. Not many men are prepared to talk about it but it is so important that men check themselves regularly and go to their doctor if they are in anyway worried and to push if they need to. I have also found writing the blog quite cathartic and it has helped me come to terms with what is happening.”
His wife, family and friends have been a great support to him and he plans to continue running and raising more funds for Cerebra. They have already raised more than £4,500 for the charity. He is running the Great North Run in September.
“Cerebra has been a great help to us with advice and support and has really made it possible for Isabella to go to Paces.”
But it is also his running which has helped him keep emotionally together.
“When I was having treatment I dealt with it like running a marathon, breaking it down but by but and I think that helped me through.”
• Cerebra is a national charity essentially about young people whose lives are affected by the debilitation of brain injury – whose future can be made brighter with the right intervention and therapy.
They raise money to fund ground- breaking research into brain injury and neurological disorders and to operate a network of parents and carers whose lives are affected.
They act as a catalyst to provide interaction between professional research and the insight of parents and carers. Every year in the UK approximately 650,000 new babies are born and our research shows that 1 in 40 has a neurological problem.
With the help of the public, Cerebra can continue to offer its much needed services. Anyone who would like to find out more about Martin’s blog can visit www.yorkshirecancer research.org.uk/blog.aspx. To donate to his charity events visit http//virginmoney.giving.com/team/TwoCousinsRun.