I’m running the London Marathon in my stepson’s memory
Chris and Florence are raising money for Teenage Cancer Trust in memory of Milan, Florence’s son, who died of lung cancer when he was 23.
In 2019, Chris’ stepson Milan passed away from lung cancer, aged just 23, after being treated at the Teenage Cancer Trust unit in Bristol. This year, Chris is running the London Marathon in memory of Milan. His wife Florence, Milan’s mum, is supporting his fundraising.
Florence says: “Milan was a wonderful son. He had just finished university studying Computer Science. As a teenager, Milan loved computer programming and building computers. He also enjoyed playing poker and chess as well as meeting up with his friends.
“When Milan was 23, he started finding blood on his handkerchief and had been to the doctors about it. They initially dismissed it as wear and tear. It continued and Milan tried to get another appointment. He went for an X-ray, but it didn’t show anything suspicious. He kept pressing and he thought he was going for a normal appointment at the hospital, but he didn’t leave for four weeks.
“He was told that he had stage 4 lung cancer. The hospital wasn’t geared up to young people and the news was delivered in a blunt manner. He was 23 so technically an adult, but he was still so young. He didn’t know that it was coming, and it was a complete shock.
“Milan was devastated but he was still positive and hopeful to have an operation to remove bits of his lung. I don’t know how he coped so well at his age. He could see that we were struggling and wanted to preserve our feelings.
“Milan was initially treated on an adult ward, and it wasn’t suitable for a person his age. He was a young man surrounded by elderly people who were visibly ill. It’s not what a young person needs to see when he’s just been diagnosed.
“He was moved to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit where he had his own room and it made all of the difference. The rooms were really cheerful which helped lift his mood when he was unwell.
“Claire and Jax, his nurses from Teenage Cancer Trust, were lovely. They had to have some difficult conversations with him about end-of-life care and his will, but he took it all in his stride and never complained or said: “Why me?”
“His girlfriend Ying helped him so much and they were deeply in love. In May 2019, he proposed to her on Clifton Suspension Bridge. They were both so happy and it kept him going.
“He was not well on his wedding day. I don’t know how he did it and he said if it wasn’t his wedding day, he would have admitted himself to hospital, but he had such strength. He smiled throughout and even had his first dance. It was an emotional day, but it was a lovely occasion.
“Ying was with him the whole time. He even helped her with her studying and emailed her tutor if she was struggling due to worrying about his health. She looked after him and he looked after her. She is like a daughter to us now and has been at all our family occasions over the last two years. She has recently returned to Laos and we are going to visit her there.
“Milan’s friends were amazing too. Not long before he passed away, he wanted to go to a Quentin Tarantino movie. We had to take three oxygen bottles and his wheelchair to the cinema. He was so determined and somehow we made it work. I loved the fact that he was still enjoying himself with his friends.
“He loved poker and the Saturday before he passed away, he hosted a poker night. He was in his wheelchair and had to write down his instructions as he was struggling to speak, but he enjoyed himself. He was fantastic at chess and a friend went to play him in the last few days of his life. The friend thought he might win for once, but Milan still won.
“We were on holiday when I realised that I’d got a place for the London Marathon. It was deferred due to Covid, so I will run this year. I’m going to do it more as a fun run and soak it all in, rather than worrying about a time. If I want to stop to talk to people, then I will. I’m helping Chris with his fundraising as we want to raise more money for Teenage Cancer Trust.”
Chris adds: “This will be my first marathon and, at the age of 62 and counting, possibly my last. As well as Florence, my long-time close friend Patrick will be running too. It will definitely be an emotional day for all of us.
“We’ve raised money for Teenage Cancer Trust before. I did a 100-mile challenge event in August 2020 which raised £1,000. We were also going to walk to Santiago in Spain, but unfortunately couldn’t because of coronavirus. We raised £5,000.
“My training is going well, and I did a half marathon in April. I’m looking to do the marathon in around four and a half hours.
“My fundraising for the London Marathon is going great. I have been supported massively by my local pub, The King’s Head in Kingscourt, Stroud. We raised nearly £1,300 over the Jubilee weekend. We held a garden fete, Songs in their Eyes competition and local bands performed in aid of the charity. The local community has been great and really supportive.”