He and his brother Tom are walking 300 miles in three counties in three months for Macmillan Cancer Support – all while Ben under goes life extending chemotherapy.
It was just two days after he celebrated his 40th birthday that mental health nurse Ben was given the devastating news that he had cancer. Ben had gone for an endoscopy because he was having difficulty swallowing.
Thinking it would be nothing, he was then diagnosed with oesophageal cancer by the doctor performing the procedure before even leaving the examination room.
He was then asked to wait in the waiting room where ten minutes later a nurse sat next to him and started talking to him about the news he had just received.
During the conversation Ben looked down and saw on her ID badge that she was a Macmillan nurse and that was when the cancer diagnosis really hit home.
From then on Ben and his family have used Macmillan services over the last two years: these have included support in meetings with doctors, phone calls and emotional support.
But then in March last year Ben and his family were told the devastating new that his cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and was now incurable and he was given 12 months to live.
“I think being a mental health nurse for 21 years helped me, but you still have days when your struggle., But I try to just take every day as it comes. It as hard as I was given the prognosis just as we went into lockdown so all my bucket list plans couldn’t go ahead but it meant that I could bubble with my family and just spent quality time with them which is what is really important.”
Through this difficult period Macmillan have been very present in Ben’s and his family’s life and now the Greens want to give back.
Despite his cancer being incurable, Ben, originally from Ossett, wanted to give people hope and has encouraged others to either join him on his challenge or take up walking, for the benefit of their physical and mental wellbeing.
“When I first got that diagnosis, I asked how long I had left, they said I had about a year and that would have taken me to March 2021. So you’ve got that in your head all the time and my family had it in their head. We were constantly thinking ‘is this going to be the last Christmas together?’ or ‘would this be the last birthday or Mother’s Day?’. Then April came and it was a case of ‘what now?’,” recalls Ben.
“My new way of thinking of things is a bit cheesy but it’s about living in the moment.
“Being a mental health nurse, I’ve always advocated not living in the past or dwelling on the future, that’s kind of how I’ve lived my life recently.
“If you’re given six months or a year, don’t stick to that in your head. Things change all the time, for better or worse. If I can be a beacon of hope for people in a similar situation, that’s great.”
In a bid to give something back Ben, accompanied by his brother Tom, plans to walk 300 miles in three months. The brothers are no strangers to fundraising – during lockdown they did a virtual walk of Mount Everest and Mount Fuji for another cancer charity. This challenge will include a series of six big walks in October, November and December. The rest of the miles will be made up doing smaller local walks. All the walks take place around his cancer treatment – and will typically be around 15 miles in stints across Yorkshire, the Lake District and one in London.
The walks started on October 4 from Selby to York and the second one takes place this weekend, starting at Granary Wharf, Leeds and walking to Saltaire.
Ben says people are more than welcome to come and join them for a walk and a chat.
“Here’s your chance if you want to start walking, get walking. This is about joining in and being part of the experience rather than just opening their wallet,” he says.
“It’s also about restarting those relationships and connections with people that I haven’t seen in a long time. It’s also important because charities have missed out on fundraising over the past year and it’s been really difficult for people. Helping Macmillan so they can help others is what’s important.”
With fundraising significantly impacted due to the pandemic, Ben is hopeful of raising vital funds for Macmillan who have supported him throughout his cancer diagnosis.
He has already raised more than £2,000 for the cancer charity.
“Macmillan have been so supportive and so helpful. People don’t realise that it’s not just the patient who is helped but the family as well. It doesn’t stop here,” says Ben. “Macmillan will help me and my family throughout everything. My cancer is terminal so when the inevitable happens, my mum will probably be reaching out to Macmillan for help.”
Adele Burrough, Macmillan’s Fundraising Manager in Yorkshire, said: “Despite enduring the effects of cancer and treatment, Ben is thinking of others by raising funds for Macmillan to make sure vital cancer services continue for those in need.
“Of course, it would be great if people joined up with Ben and Tom and we wish them the best of luck with their challenge.”
Oct 23 – Leeds to Saltaire canal, 15 miles, approximately 6.5 hours, starting at Granary Wharf, Leeds at 9.30am
Oct 30 – Lakes Day 1 – Wansfell Pike, 12 miles, approximately six hours, meeting at Windermere car park at 9am
Oct 31 – Lakes Day 2 – Langdale, 12.5 miles, approximately six hours, meeting at Skelwith Bridge Hotel at 9am
Nov 13 – Dalby Forrest, 15.5 miles, approximately seven hours, meeting at St John Baptist, Levisham, Pickering at 8am
Dec 4 – Scarborough to Robin Hood’s Bay, 15 miles, approximately 6.5 hours, meeting at Scarborough Train Station at 8.30am
Dec 18 – Thames, 16 miles, approximately seven hours, meet at Kew Gardens Car Park, London at 9am