Friends holding 24-hour run in Hastings to raise cash to pay for cancer treatment for Bexhill firefighter

Chris with his wife Sarah and daughters Connie and Esmae SUS-190820-100348001
Chris with his wife Sarah and daughters Connie and Esmae SUS-190820-100348001

A 24-hour run is taking place on Saturday (August 24) to raise money for a firefighter battling cancer.

Chris Mepham, a Hastings firefighter from Bexhill, was 36 when he was diagnosed with two primary cancers more than two years ago - stage 4 bowel cancer in his sigmoid colon, together with stage 2 testicular cancer.

Unfortunately for him, the bowel cancer turned out to be a particularly aggressive strain called Signet Ring Cell which is extremely rare, affecting just 0.5 to one per cent of patients with colon cancers.

The father-of-two has now been told by the NHS it has exhausted all its treatment options available, advising him instead to look to private treatment options, which he will have to pay for.

The drug recommended to Chris, called cetuximab, will cost at least £12,500 per treatment to buy privately.

His friends Terry and Mandy Skelton, Heidi and John Waterhouse have organised the 24-hour run at Hastings Athletics Track in Parkstone Road from noon onwards.

A JustGiving page has also been set up by friend Sara Conway, which has raised more than £21,000 so far. The aim is to raise £50,000.

On the fundraising page, Sara said: “In March 2017 Chris, after a routine colonoscopy for some tummy trouble and completely unexpectedly, was diagnosed with two primary cancers.

“In April 2017, Chris underwent six hours of surgery under the care of the Royal Marsden in London, to remove what cancer they could. They discovered very quickly the bowel cancer had spread to his peritoneum, leaving seedlings like tiny grains of sand, scattered across his stomach lining and cavity.

“These seedlings are rarely picked up or reveal themselves on scan imaging, so are often very difficult to diagnose and because of that, are incredibly dangerous. Chris also learned the testicular cancer had spread around his aorta, and was pressing on his IVC (main vein travelling through the centre of the body.

“Once Chris had recovered from this major surgery, he was advised chemotherapy was going to be the next treatment and he underwent 12 gruelling rounds of chemo, together with a targeted biochemical drug called cetuximab.

“Finally in November 2017 the family received wonderful news the cancer had responded well to treatment and Chris was now eligible for a pioneering procedure at St Mary’s Hospital called “HIPEC”, (a 12-hour operation, where a hot chemotherapy wash is used to treat the peritoneal disease).

“This went ahead in January 2018. Chris recovered remarkably well and in March 2018, Chris and Sarah were thrilled to hear the news the procedure had been a great success and Chris was effectively cancer free. Sadly that was short-lived and two months later the cancer showed itself in his liver.”

The cancer also returned at the end of last year, obstructing his bowel, and he had to have a nine-hour operation. Chris has been on chemotherapy since February.

Sara said he can have the targeted biochemical drug called cetuximab, which he has had previously with good results, but will now need to self-fund the drug privately, as this is no longer available to the family on the NHS.

The JustGiving page can be found at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sara-conway-1.

If anyone would like to enter Saturday’s event, they can email amandaskelton@btinternet.com. People can also walk or jog at the event as well.

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