Myeloma UK supporter runs Belfast Marathon for dad and grandmother

Fundraising news // 5th October 2021

Melissa Patton, whose father and grandmother were diagnosed with myeloma three months apart back in 2019, raised £2,755 for Myeloma UK at the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon on Sunday.

The 29-year-old was joined by 14 of her colleagues at Barclay Communications, who each covered part of the route in a group relay.

“I didn’t expect so many people to be out on the street supporting us,” she said. “It was great to see – the whole city was buzzing all day. I just had to really push myself through it. I hate running – I thought when I started training that I would get that runner’s high everybody talks about but I didn’t. But every time I reached one of the cheer stations I thought, ‘Yes, I can do it. I have to keep going’. At the minute we are at about £2,700. Hopefully we can push it up to £3,000. We’re closing the JustGiving page on Friday (8 October) to allow any more final donations.”

Melissa’s father, Robert, was just 57 when he was diagnosed with myeloma in July 2019.

He had been complaining from aches and pains for some time, which his family jokingly dismissed as old age. But his symptoms only worsened. By the time he was diagnosed, his cancer was so advanced that his kidney function had dropped to 20 per cent and his bones were so severely damaged doctors feared he might become paralysed.

“We were joking that he’d be needing a hip replacement in his 50s so it was a shock when we were told it was cancer. We weren’t sure he was going to live past a couple of months.”

In a cruel twist of fate, three months after his blood cancer was spotted, Melissa’s then 78-year-old maternal grandmother, Jean Meneely was also diagnosed with myeloma.

“It’s been scary, you’re wondering what is going to happen next; but as a family we’re trying not to dwell on things too much.” 

Around 900 people are currently living with myeloma in Northern Ireland. On average, 171 people are diagnosed with the disease every year in the country.

Robert’s diaphragm collapsed whist having intense chemotherapy leaving him a shadow of his former self. Watching her once active father struggle to so much as walk down a flight of stairs has been especially challenging, Melissa confided.

“He was super active and doing workouts every day, really living his life. Now he’s confined to the bedroom and he’s struggling to get down the stairs. He can’t walk too far without struggling to breathe. It’s been hard.” 

Thankfully, after undergoing both radiotherapy and chemotherapy, Robert is now in remission.

Myeloma UK has been an invaluable source of emotional and practical support and much-needed information for Melissa and her family in the wake of this double diagnosis.

“It means so much to me because it’s on both sides of my family. The charity is now close to my heart and my aim is to raise more awareness about myeloma and funds for Myeloma UK that can go towards continued research.” 

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Myeloma supporter Melissa at the Belfast Marathon in a group of friends with arms round each other