My papa's fight against mesothelioma

Russell is running 26.2 miles this year for his grandfather who had mesothelioma. Read his story.  


One of the earliest memories I have of my papa is sitting in his shed watching him work. Every inch of the place was covered in things to build with. He had wood scraps, pieces of metal, tins of screws and nails piled high. Not to mention every power tool you could imagine! As a young boy, it was an incredible place to explore.

But the most endearing feature of papa’s shed had to be his train set. It ran around the whole outside of the shed. Setting up the trains was always a challenge - we had to move mountains of unfinished projects out of the way just to close a loop! When it was all going, the handmade trains that ran around the tracks were a real sight for me. Even as I grew older, there was never a better afternoon spent than one with Papa in his shed. We talked about building things and his stories from when he worked at the train yard. 

Even as I grew older, there was never a better afternoon spent than one with Papa in his shed.

Papa was a carpenter and tradesman in Adelaide, South Australia. He spent many of his years turning out train carriages (real ones, not models) before moving on to larger projects, such as restoring famous buildings. The knack of building and fixing things never left him – it was who he was and what made him special. 

In December last year, my wife and I travelled home to see the family for the holiday season (we live in London). It was in those weeks that papa went to see a specialist about his persistent shoulder pain. 

A week later papa was diagnosed with mesothelioma. 10 months later he passed away. 

Being so far from home when a family member is sick is a heart-breaking experience. On top of a mountain of homesickness, I felt helpless. All I wanted to do was pack up and run back home. I found some relief knowing that he was surrounded by a loving family who supported and cared for him. 

He was such a positive man – you wouldn’t even know he was sick or in pain. Even when the doctors said the chemotherapy wasn’t shrinking the cancer, he still remained positive. 

He never once said how the pain was affecting him. He just seemed like normal papa.

My last talk with Papa was a skype call from his hospital bed just a week or so before he passed away. He never once said how the pain was affecting him. He just seemed like normal papa and wanted to know about our latest adventures in London. 

His determination to remain positive during his last 10 months of life is something I will never ever forget. That’s why I’m running the Brighton Marathon this year. I want to help do my bit for mesothelioma research. I hope that we will soon find a cure so no other family has to go through losing someone from mesothelioma.  

When I’m running those 26 miles and I’m struggling or in pain, I’ll just think about my papa's positive spirit and know that he’s here with me every step of the way. 


Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer caused by breathing in asbestos dust. There’s no cure. That's why we desperately need more research. You can help by donating to research today.

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10 April 2018