NI man taking on London Marathon for cancer charity as brother battles leukaemia

The Greer family - James, Anne, Daniel, and Paul -Credit:Submitted
The Greer family - James, Anne, Daniel, and Paul -Credit:Submitted

A young NI man is taking on the London Marathon this weekend to raise funds for Cancer Fund for Children.

20-year-old James Greer's younger brother Daniel (16) was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2022, with the Newry family having been supported by the charity.

Daniel has undergone three stem cell transplants and is currently in hospital.

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The brothers' mum Anne told Belfast Live that Daniel received his Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) diagnosis in June 2022.

She said: "He had a bit of back pain, I took him to the GP to get some bloods done and she rang me that evening to say we needed to look at it further, that potentially it didn't look great.

Brothers Daniel and James Greer -Credit:Submitted
Brothers Daniel and James Greer -Credit:Submitted

"He was admitted the following day to the Royal in Belfast and had further tests, and was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). From [that] June, he had two very intense rounds of chemotherapy. He had ten days of chemo the first round and was in hospital for nearly seven weeks at that stage, then got out for a couple of days, and started the second round, the same thing all over again.

"Between round one and round two we discovered that he had what is called high-risk AML, which meant that he had a genetic change in his cells and that is why then we knew he was going to need a bone marrow transplant.

"So then the search was on for a donor and to try and raise awareness of bone marrow/stem cell donation. We were unsuccessful, we found there were potential donors that then fell through for various reasons, so we were delayed then further waiting."

The mum-of-two added that by the time a suitable donor was found, Daniel had to have another reduced dose of chemo "to try to keep his disease at bay".

Daniel, with his parents Anne and Paul, was then flown by Air Ambulance to Bristol on October 10, 2022, and he had his first bone marrow transplant ten days later.

Anne added: "We remained in Bristol until 21st December, we got home then and he hit one complication after the other. We were daily running up and down to Belfast.

Anne, Daniel, James and Paul -Credit:Submitted
Anne, Daniel, James and Paul -Credit:Submitted

"When we took him back to clinic on January 3, he had shingles and was admitted. He practically spent all of January to the end of June 2023 in the Royal or then back to Bristol.

"He has practically lived in hospital for the last two years."

Daniel has since had two further stem cell transplants.

Anne said: "The second one was on January 31, 2024 in Manchester. We were absolutely devastated mid February when we were told it hadn't worked.

"The third was in February, the following week and it was split over two days, they gave us the option of 'we don't think this is going to work, take him home', but it has miraculously.

"We didn't think we would get this far to be perfectly honest. Because in November 2023... he had a form of palliative chemotherapy. But he has such fight in him. He has such determination, he turned a corner."

The Greer family have been helped by Cancer Fund for Children, which offers support to families in their home, in the community, on the hospital ward and at Daisy Lodge, a purpose-built therapeutic centre.

James and Daniel earlier this month -Credit:Submitted
James and Daniel earlier this month -Credit:Submitted

Anne explained: "When Daniel has been in Belfast on the ward, there have been Cancer Support Specialists. Daniel had a girl called Lucy Ford, just bubbly, bright, young, fun. She would call in and out, sometimes she would just sit and talk to him if he's not feeling great or he's not up to playing a game, just for a change of a face.

"Daniel has been in complete isolation every time he's been in hospital, the only people he seen were the nurses, doctors, me and his dad.

"Lucy would call in and bring a bit of brightness and cheer. Distraction from the horrible hell he's been in."

Anne also highlighted the difference Cancer Support Specialist Gareth also made to their family.

The Newry woman continued: "He's also been a brilliant support for James, Daniel's older brother."

James is running the London Marathon to raise funds for Cancer Fund For Children -Credit:Submitted
James is running the London Marathon to raise funds for Cancer Fund For Children -Credit:Submitted

James takes on the London Marathon on Sunday, with his mum feeling "exceptionally proud" of him.

Anne said: "It has been very hard for him, he has no other siblings. Myself and Paul are completely wrapped up in Daniel's care and I'm sure at times, he has never voiced it, but I'm sure at times it has been a very lonely path for him.

"James is the only one running for Cancer Fund for Children. He was only 19 at the time when he decided he was going to do it to give something back, still in the throws of all of this."

She added: "We've been offered multiple breaks at Daisy Lodge, which we've been so looking forward to and then unfortunately Daniel, with another complication, we've had to cancel. This is other work that they do, and we are so much looking forward to be able to do that when Daniel is well enough."

The Newry brothers -Credit:Submitted
The Newry brothers -Credit:Submitted

On his fundraising page, James said: "Throughout the course of Daniel’s battle, these amazing workers have been there for him, whether that be someone to sit and play Xbox with him (because we all know how tech savvy mum and dad are), or to listen to his worries or fears and bring a voice of reassurance, and even call out to the house in the evenings and check in on us all or to grab a coffee if one of us needs a chat.

"Without their hard work, dedication and selflessness, Daniel’s battle would be almost impossible.

"And Daniel isn’t the only recipient of their support. The ward is full of children in Daniel’s situation, who all can avail of the support of this amazing charity, so please, if you can spare anything, consider donating to this charity. Every penny you give massively changes the lives of all the children that are helped by these workers."

You can donate to James's fundraiser for Cancer Fund for Children HERE. Over £10,000 has been raised to date.

You can find out more on becoming a stem call donor via Anthony Nolan or DKMS

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