Taking on the London Marathon is undoubtedly a huge challenge requiring significant commitment, so for many people it’s a once in a lifetime event. Here Paul, who proclaimed only months ago that he would never do it again, explains why he’s doing it for a second time.
The first time I did the London Marathon it was for me, but this time it’s for something much bigger. Back in 1999, when my big sister, Jenni was 13, she was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis. This rare disease caused her immune system to attack her liver, leading to the rapid deterioration of its critical function. This led to an array of complex symptoms and Jenni was prescribed immune suppressant medication to limit the damage to her liver, but by 2015 her condition had worsened and a decision was made for Jenni to be placed on the liver transplant list. Six long months later, a donor was found and Jenni was rushed to the hospital and prepped for surgery but the donor’s liver was not suitable for transplant, and the wait continued. I cannot explain how we all felt, let alone what Jenni went through during this period. Weeks later, a second donor was found and this one was good to go. Jenni underwent surgery and received a gift that would unlock a whole new world of possibilities.
Throughout all of these challenges; the chronic symptoms, the constant tweaking of medication and their side effects, the never-ending list of “things Jenni’s not allowed to do”, my big sister has shown a fierce and relentless desire to live a life of adventure, often walking the imaginary line of limitations that her doctors drew before her. She lives this way not because she takes her transplant for granted, but because to live her life any other way would be to waste the life that her donor wasn’t given the chance to live. I am forever inspired by Jenni’s endless energy in spite of all she has endured. We are forever thankful to the family of Jenni’s donor who made the most important decision of our lives, to give Jenni the life that she lives today. After recovering from her transplant, Jenni was inspired to follow in our Mum’s footsteps and retrain to become a nurse – she now works in a neonatal intensive care unit where, every day, she pays forward the love and care that she received during her own most challenging years.
The tattoo on my right wrist reads “never never never give up” with Jenni’s initials inscribed between the first word and the last. This is my constant reminder to keep pushing, no matter how hard things get. I have referred to this during some of the hardest moments of my own life, and never more frequently than during my last marathon. It’s hard to explain the sensation of feeling as if your body is shutting down and every rational thought in your mind tells you to stop, but somehow, from somewhere, you find the energy to keep going. Perhaps this is a drive that lives within each of us, or perhaps it is a special gift that my sister has given me… either way, I hope it shows up again on April 23rd as I aim to beat my previous time of three hours four minutes.
So that’s why I’m doing the marathon again – because I got the chance to do it for CLDF. I have experienced first- hand just how terrifying and confusing it can be to live with the uncertainty of liver disease in your family. The services that CLDF provides are critical to improving the lives of those impacted, and to working towards reducing, treating, and eliminating childhood liver disease. If I can play a tiny part in helping towards that, I’m delighted to do so.
As the big day gets close, I’m feeling pretty good! I ran Barcelona a couple of weeks ago and it’s taken a while to get the energy levels back up but I’m excited to hear the buzz of the London crowd again – nothing quite matches the atmosphere here! I’m really excited to run for a cause that means so much to my sister and my whole family, and so thankful to all those who have donated so far, it means the world! I’m definitely looking forward to crossing the finish line and putting my feet up for a bit! Fingers crossed for some nice weather!
Paul is one of 24 people who are taking part in the London Marathon for CLDF this year and we wish them all the very best of luck.