A mum-of-two who is currently undergoing chemotherapy for an incurable brain tumour has vowed to cross the finish line of the London Marathon for her son Noah, who has been battling retinoblastoma.
Despite having monthly doses of chemotherapy which have left her feeling sick and exhausted, Gemma Edgar, 32, has continued to train three to four times a week in preparation for the big day and said that “sheer determination” has kept her going.
Gemma, from Colchester, Essex, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in October 2014, just eight weeks after the birth of her second son Noah. She had emergency surgery the next day, followed by weeks of radiotherapy.
A year later, when Noah was 18 months old, he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma. Noah needed surgery to remove his right eye, followed by six months of intense chemotherapy. He then spent nine weeks in the USA having proton beam therapy.
Noah now wears an artificial eye and has to have regular MRI scans and examinations under general anaesthetic every four months to check that the cancer hasn’t returned, but he is doing really well and is a happy, energetic three-year-old boy. In October last year, Gemma contacted the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) to apply for a charity running place. She said: “I’ve always dreamed of running the London Marathon – I run regularly and it’s on my bucket list. It was coming up to three years since I was diagnosed and I had already outlived my prognosis. I was feeling really well and I thought ‘this is the best I’m ever going to be healthwise, I’ve got to give it a go’.”
A worthy cause
Gemma added: “I applied for a ballot place four years in a row but wasn’t successful. I had never felt that there was a charity close enough to my heart to raise all that money for until CHECT, who provided our family with so much invaluable information, advice, care and support throughout Noah’s cancer journey. I wanted to raise money for them to ensure that they can continue to help other families who find themselves in a similar situation.”
Gemma was over the moon when she secured the charity running place, but just a week later she discovered that her tumour had regrown. In November she had to have a craniotomy and in January she began a six month course of oral chemotherapy.
She said: “The week after I take the chemo pills is the worst, my whole body feels shattered and all my muscles ache. It takes sheer determination to get out there for a run and I do have to force myself but I always have so much more energy afterwards.
“I did think wonder if I should give my place to someone else but I thought, ‘no, I’ve got this on my bucket list’. Cancer has already changed so much in my life. It has stopped me driving, stopped me working, I don’t want it to stop me doing this as well.”
Gemma added: “I’m just going to go for it. Even if I have to walk half of it I will still raise that money and cross that finish line.”
According to Gemma, it is her brave little Noah who is her inspiration. She said: “Noah doesn’t let the fact that he only has one eye stop him at all. Whenever I’m feeling grotty or sorry for myself I think of Noah and the fact that he was only a baby when he went through cancer treatment and he never complained, so I’ve got nothing to complain about.”
Gemma added: “Noah is a typical, happy little boy who loves play fighting with his big brother Dylan, going to nursery and playing with trains, planes and cars. He adores being outside and is a little daredevil who is always climbing up things he shouldn’t.”
Gemma’s husband Rob Edgar and her family will be there on the day to cheer her on, although the boys will be staying at her in laws and looking out for her on the telly.
If you would like to sponsor Gemma you can visit her JustGiving page here.
Patrick Tonks, Chief Executive of CHECT, said: “The fact that Gemma is running the London Marathon for us despite everything that she and her family are going through is nothing short of incredible. There really are no words to express our awe and gratitude to Gemma and her family for their continued support for CHECT. We would like to wish her the very best of luck and we’ll be there on the day to cheer her on.”