Matthew Carr's Story
In May, Matthew Carr undertook one of the hardest physical challenges possible- climbing to Mount Everest Base Camp at 17,600 feet above ground level. Sadly Matthew lost his mum, Hazel, to lung cancer, and used this as inspiration for the incredible journey in Nepal. Here is Matthew’s story.
My mum was the most caring and devoted mother a child could ask for. She would go above and beyond her duty of a mother to make sure that her 'chicks', as she used to call us, were happy. This included going out of her way to give us lifts to places, providing the daily family meals as well as general upkeep of the house which obviously means picking up the kids dirty washing from the floor. She’d always keep her phone by her 24/7 so she could be there for her children at the drop of a hat. I had a very close relationship with my mum, I was able to tell her everything and considered her my best friend.
In January she started getting back pain, which at the age of 57 this isn't a particularly abnormal thing. Painkillers subsided the pain, but she started getting some tingling in her left arm which over time got progressively worse. Following several blood tests, the GP referred her for a bone density scan to see if she had osteoporosis.
By the time she got back from a holiday in April, a pain had started in her right hip and was affecting her mobility. She was in agony and really struggling to walk. It was at this point she decided to go privately. She had an MRI scan on her pelvis on the following Thursday. When she arrived back home, they rang her and asked her to come back for a CT scan. She got the results on the Friday morning.
During the diagnosis, I remained completely silent. I knew if I tried to speak, the words wouldn't come out properly and I would fall apart. Both Mum and Dad were calm and collected during the consultation, asking all the relevant questions and getting the information needed, all of which I completely forgot as soon as I left the room. I managed to stay together until we left the room when I went to hug mum and basically lost control of my emotions.
We received a ‘Lung Cancer Information Pack’ from Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, providing us with information on every aspect of lung cancer. It was very important to us to know that there was the support network available, which is essential when going through the journey which is associated with any type of cancer.
We were fortunate in some ways. Due to the type of lung cancer she had (non-small cell adenocarcinoma) and the presence of the epidermal growth factor receptor, she was eligible for a new biological drug called Afatanib. Simply put, this inhibits the growth of tumour cells throughout the body, and although not a cure, it acted as a pause button.
Eventually, however, the cancer mutated and became resistant to the drug, meaning the biological treatment ended. Chemotherapy followed before things deteriorated and the cancer became unmanageable with modern medicine. Overall though, we were given an extra 18 months together thanks to the new advancements in the treatment of lung cancer that we may not have had previously.
I decided after the diagnosis to move home so that I could not only have as much possible quality time with my mum while I could, but to be there for her too, as and when I was needed. The time from diagnosis onwards created a different kind of bonding you wouldn't normally have with a parent, we always talked about everything.
The extra time we had with mum is some of the most important times I think I had. From being able to have those few extra-long chats, those few extra hugs or even simply sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea reading a book in silence together; we didn’t take any moment for granted.
Signing up for Everest
The signing up to the Everest base camp trek was very spontaneous. I knew I wanted to do something for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation in memory of her, but I did not know what. I was at my girlfriend’s birthday and there were some friends talking about the trek. It’s always been something I’d love to do. Fortunately, someone had dropped out and they offered me their place. I was signed up in a week. It would have been quicker if I didn’t have to wait to have my leave approved from work!
I was both very excited and very nervous. I knew I was physically fit but nothing can properly prepare you for the altitude and you don’t know how you’ll be at high altitude until you are actually there. I think my mum would have been apprehensive of me going. My grandad wasn’t happy either. I remember him saying: "I have just lost my much loved daughter, I do not want to lose a grandson too".
During the trip the landscape was absolutely stunning. The views I had were unbelievable and pictures just can't give a scale or show the vastness of it. I loved stopping and enjoying the views but when I was at high altitude on steep inclines I'd take two steps and have to stop for 10 seconds to catch my breath. I really struggled with altitude sickness and had bad headaches, vomiting a few times which got me down.
Everyone at some point had a bad stomach - either from altitude or from the food. Somehow it was nicknamed having a “spitty bum”. When people were struggling with said “spitty bum”, they still laughed from mentioning the phrase.
But despite all this, it was the most incredible experience and something I know my mum would be very proud, as my grandad was when I finally got back from Nepal!
Mum would have been particularly proud because, the money raised, will hopefully help other families get some ‘extra time’ together too.
You can sponsor Matthew via his fundraising page at www.virginmoneygiving.com/matthew_carr
And if Matthew has inspired you to get fundraise for us, check out our wide range of events here: https://www.roycastle.org/support-us/our-events Ps you don’t have to climb Mount Everest!