Father inspired by son steps out for Jane’s walk

GUY Francis died aged 23, cut down in his prime by a rare form of bone cancer he had battled bravely for six years.

Despite a succession of gruelling treatments including being fitted with a prosthetic knee and a cage inside his neck – a 17-hour operation he was just the fourth person in the world to endure – the York youngster still managed to gain a degree, get engaged and raise thousands to research the disease through a host of daredevil stunts before it finally claimed his life.

Guy, a former Fulford School student, passed away in 2002, just three days before he was due to receive a special presentation of his degree.

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Rocked by the death of their son, his parents vowed to continue his remarkable legacy, founding the Bone Cancer Research Trust (BCRT) alongside a handful of other bereaved families in 2005 as there was no Government funding for research into the disease.

Six years on, the BCRT has 11 trustees, 1,200 members and has just hit the £2m mark.

Guy’s battle against the disease, during which he abseiled off the Humber Bridge and did a tandem sky dive jump, bears strong similarities to Jane Tomlinson, who surpassed all medical predictions and notched up a staggering tally of feats that raised £1.85m for charity while fighting terminal cancer.

Now his father Mike, founding chairman of the BCRT who was waved off the starting line of the inaugural Leeds 10k by Jane just weeks before her death in 2007, is pulling on his walking boots to continue their efforts.

Mike, 66, is taking part in the inaugural Jane Tomlinson Yorkshire Dales Walk For All Festival alongside his 35-year-old daughter Lucinda on August 14.

The pair will be raising money for bone cancer research and despite reaching the £2m milestone last month, are refusing to slow down in their fundraising activities. Guy’s mother Ros has recently had a hip replacement and is not walking the 14-mile route, but will be cheering them on from the sidelines.

“Guy was an inspiration to all of us and he still is,” Mike said.

“Whenever I think I can’t do something his memory makes me just get up and keep going.

“During the time he had cancer he didn’t let anything stop him living his life and did all he could to raise money for research into the disease. He was in a huge amount of pain but he didn’t let it hold him back.

“When he had the titanium inserted into his knee, he wasn’t allowed to leave the hospital until he could walk up a short flight of steps.

“Usually it takes patients a week or 10 days – but he did it in 48 hours.

“I really don’t know where he got that determination from, it surprised even us.”

The first tumour was diagnosed just four days before his 18th birthday and was initially thought to be a hockey injury.

By the time it was discovered, the cancer was so severe, doctors considered amputation, but instead inserted the prosthesis replacing a large section of his femur and tibia.

After his recovery, he returned to school to finish his A-levels then went on to Teesside University in October 1998 to study for a degree in marketing.

But in 2000, another tumour was found in his spine and he underwent a pioneering operation at Leeds General Infirmary, replacing the top two vertebrae in his neck by inserting a specially designed cage.

The cancer again returned in 2002 and even though his body was unable to endure any more chemotherapy, Guy still managed to get engaged, finish the bulk of his degree and reach the advanced stages of a BT graduate scheme before his death.

“It was hard to keep up with him, he packed a whole life into six years,” Mike said.

“He was always an immensely strong character and he would not mind if he finished something in second place but he certainly would have minded if he had not given 110 per cent.

“We will just go on and keep doing the same thing for as long as we can. I am not a big walker, by any means, but I have done a bit of training for this.

“Guy will absolutely be with me every step of the way.”

Anyone wanting to make a donation to the Bone Cancer Research Trust or to support Mike should visit www.justgiving.com/418-steps -for-Guy