MyLastingImpression Martin Eaton
What would go through your mind if you were faced with a blood cancer diagnosis?
Would you face your diagnosis with fear… or hope?
Martin Eaton, 56, lives in Coleraine with his wife Siobhán. While he is originally from Derbyshire, England, Martin relocated to Coleraine 29 years ago when he was offered a role as a geography lecturer at Ulster University. It was there he met Siobhán. In 1996 they got married, and soon after had a son, Ronan.
Ten years ago, Martin was fit, healthy, and an active footballer. Not only did he play multiple times a week, but he also was a coach on the university’s team. He had never had any health scares and enjoyed a happy, content family life. It wasn’t until he developed a blood clot in his right leg that he sensed something might not be right. A growing lump in his neck fueled his suspicions.
After weeks of tests and uncertainty, Martin was referred to the Antrim Hospital in February 2009. It was there that the family’s worst fears were realised – Martin had blood cancer. He was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma on Siobhán’s birthday.
Martin’s treatment began immediately, and in October 2009 he underwent an autologous stem cell transplant. By the summer of 2010, he was able to return to work relieved in the fact that his experience had been relatively straight-forward. But, by the beginning of 2013, Martin had started to feel unwell again. His cancer had returned.
A second diagnosis took a hard toll on the family. Martin’s teenage son Ronan was at a pivotal point in his education and Martin worried he wouldn’t be able to see him attend, let alone graduate, from university. He resumed chemotherapy and underwent another allogeneic transplant, this time with stem cells donated by his sister who was a perfect match.
Then, in 2015, he was admitted to hospital on six different occasions as his body struggled to fight off infections. Around this time he opted to take an early retirement, he just couldn’t keep up with the physical demands of his lecturing role. It was a traumatic period, but over time Martin gradually began to improve, thanks to the teams at both Antrim and Belfast City Hospitals.
Now, three years later, Martin’s health is remarkably better. He enjoys spending his time on the glorious North Coast, gardening, walking his dogs and supporting his favourite football team from the comfort of his home. In one month’s time, his son will graduate from the Ulster University with a degree in Optometry. Martin will be there to watch.
For the 99 people diagnosed with blood cancer every month in Northern Ireland, they know the fear that comes with this news – will my family cope without me? Who will take care of my pets if I’m not here? Will I live to see my son graduate from university?
But there is hope.
Thanks to scientists based here in Belfast, funded by Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, three out of four people in Northern Ireland diagnosed with blood cancer survive.
But for that one in four there’s still work to be done.
Please share our message far and wide. With your help, we can fund research to help find a cure for blood cancer.