From darkness let there be light and hope

3 min read
 by Christine Westhead

Christine ran her first ever marathon under the midnight sun in Norway on Saturday 17th June. She explains how the devastating loss of her great nephew inspired her incredible fundraising challenge.

A dark journey

In 2018 my niece, Laura, gifted a kitten to her son, Eoghan (Oggie). She recorded a video for the family. In the video, Eoghan’s right eye blinked independently from his left eye when she played it back. Soon after, he was admitted to Royal Hampshire Hospital, Winchester and then transferred to Southampton General Hospital. He was a happy, lively four-year-old beautiful little boy.

Eoghan had MRI scans which revealed a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), we had never heard of this before. I’m a nurse and had no idea what we were about to face. The whole family’s lives fell apart as we learned the prognosis. The darkest journey began.

Eoghan had surgery on 5th December 2018 followed by radiotherapy at University College London Hospital. He was given a trial drug, Dasatinib, in April 2019 but due to the side effects it was stopped. His compromised immune system couldn’t cope.

My niece’s first-born son, my brother and sister-in-law’s first grandson, the whole family’s joy was quickly being taken away by this dreadful disease. Laura described it as “a monster that confiscates the power of love”. There was no winning this fight, even with Eoghan’s incredible bravery and strength.

Laura held him in her arms as he took his last breath, dreams snatched away. Eoghan passed away on 26th September 2019. His loss is immense; a gaping void that cannot be filled, immeasurable heartbreak and inconsolable grief. Life will never be the same.

Grey days

You wonder why this has happened to a child, our child. Laura and her family visit the cemetery and the question still to this day, four years on, is why? But there are no answers, just the never-ending heartbreak of the loss of a child.

In 2021, I had a bilateral shoulder injury and found myself on sick leave from work. I needed to do something and thankfully my legs were fine so my dog, Kobe, and I took on the challenge of 10,000 steps a day in February to raise money for Brain Tumour Research. I was able to get out and see something beautiful every day to bring some positivity to our lives! Kobe and I raised £800 through the generosity of family and friends, and it felt good to help even in this small way. 

We always say that Eoghan is the sun, the moon and the stars, his spirit shining through wherever we were. On our walks, whatever the weather, there was always a glimmer of light somewhere and it gave us hope. Even after the darkest storms, there is light and with that light comes hope for a better future.

The brightest sunlight

New Year 2023 came around and resolutions were made. Mine? To run a marathon for Brain Tumour Research!

Now, I am not a runner by any means. I ran a 10k ten years ago and hung up my running shoes after that! I had never run a marathon before and had no idea what it really involved. Plus, I am 60. But I knew I could do it. Easy! Right? I started my training which involved running around the streets of my hometown in between work and managing homelife and my menagerie (two dogs, two cats, a horse and three hens).

I came across the Midnight Sun Marathon in Tromsø, Norway, and this immediately resonated with me. I took on the challenge to run a marathon through the night with the bright sun on the horizon. All my family and friends had faith so off I went to Tromsø with my husband and daughter.

In  Tromsø, everyone looked super fit and very professional. There weren’t many 60-year-old grandmas collecting their race numbers! It was very daunting and now very real. Crunch day came and the marathon lived up to its name; the sun shone bright and the atmosphere was amazing. Perfect for a good run.

I completed it in 4:51:33 with a smile on my face, I knew that Oggie was with me all the way. Our target is to raise £2,000 and we are so close. The support has been tremendous and I am eternally grateful to all who have supported this important cause. We need better treatments and outcomes for children. Less ‘whys’ and more answers. Let the journeys of others be filled with hope for a brighter future.

To support Christine’s fundraising in memory of Eoghan, please donate via her GoFundMe page.

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