A cancer survivor from Leigh will take on the London Marathon in October to thank the cancer centre that saved his life.
Leigh Centurions fan Michael O’Dwyer, aged 36, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2018.
The branch supervisor at Morrells Wood Finishes is married to Nichola, aged 32, and has 2 children – Leah, aged 11 and Alex, aged 5. He said: “This is my way of giving back to The Christie, as without them I wouldn’t be here, they saved my life.”
Michael was diagnosed with testicular cancer in February 2018. “I went to A&E to get checked out as I noticed that when I sat down, I was getting a sharp pain and it felt uncomfortable,” he said. “One of my testicles was swollen so I knew something wasn’t right.
“I was shocked and felt numb at first as you never think you will get cancer. I was worried about my 2 young children. My family and friends have been very supportive, particularly my wife Nichola who has been a rock and done so much to help get me and the family through this horrible experience.
“I had surgery 8 days later to remove the tumour and the prognosis looked good. I had to go to The Christie hospital in Manchester every 6 weeks for blood tests and a check-up.”
However, in April 2018 a routine blood test showed the cancer was still active and had spread which meant Michael needed 9 weeks of intensive chemotherapy at The Christie from May 2018. “Being away from the kids for 5 days in every 3-week period was the hardest part,” he said. “They were the driving force for me as I knew I had to get better for them.
“The care I got from the nurses and all the staff at The Christie was fantastic and I will forever be grateful to them. They were there for me day and night and couldn’t do enough to help me.
“9 weeks after my last chemotherapy, I was told that the drugs had done their job – I was so relieved. I still will continue to have regular check-ups until 2023.
“Whilst I was having treatment at The Christie, I read a fundraising leaflet and set myself a challenge to do a skydive, half marathon and then finally run the London Marathon for The Christie.”
The Christie charity offered Michael one of its much in demand charity places for this year’s London Marathon to help him complete the third of his goals after he did a Skydive in 2019 and the Manchester Half Marathon in 2021. Michael also did the Tower Run this February, climbing all 798 steps of Manchester’s Beetham Tower.
“I’m really looking forward to the marathon and the chance to really challenge myself and see if I can get around London’s famous 26.2-mile course,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to run the London Marathon as it’s the most famous marathon in the world. Just getting around and completing it will be an achievement.”
Michael pledged to raise at least £2,000 for The Christie in return for his charity place but has more than doubled that, reaching over £4,400. His son Alex is also fundraising for The Christie, doing a fun run, and Michael’s daughter Leah is doing The Christie’s zip slide challenge in July.
“I’m so grateful to Derek Beaumont from Leigh Centurions and Alison Bell from Bolton Wanderers for donating fundraising prizes,” said Michael. “And to Carol Whiting and all staff and pupils at Newton Westpark primary school who helped me raise over £2,100 earlier this year through a mile-long sponsored run.
“I got into running through two friends – Matt Lawton and Pete O’Neill – to get fit. I helped Pete train for the London Marathon last year and now he is returning the favour.
“The Christie is a charity I hold very close to my heart. If it wasn’t for the support and care I received from The Christie, I probably wouldn’t be here today. Fundraising for them is my way off saying thank you. Nearly everyone will know someone who will be affected by cancer during their life which is even more of a reason to donate to The Christie.”
Josh Hughff, sporting events officer at The Christie charity added: “Michael is an inspiration, having got through testicular cancer and now taking on the iconic London Marathon. We are so grateful to him for all the money he has raised and will be in London this October to cheer him along, together with our 21 other runners.”
To find out more about running in the London Marathon for The Christie charity, please visit our London Marathon page. Charity places for 2022 are now full but places in 2023 will be advertised later this year.
The Christie charity supports the work of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust providing enhanced services over and above what the NHS funds. This includes money for care and treatment, research, education and extra patient services. Gifts from the public make a huge difference to the care and treatment that The Christie is able to provide to patients and their families.
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust was the first specialist trust to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ twice (in 2016 and 2018) by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It referred to The Christie as ‘a leader in cancer care’ and ‘a pioneer in developing innovative solutions to cancer care.’ The CQC praised the Trust’s staff which it said ‘go the extra mile to meet the needs of patients and their families’ and that they were ‘exceptionally kind and caring.’ In 2017, the CQC rated The Christie as the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England.