20 Mar 2024

Fundraising as a way to turn a “rubbish situation into something positive”

“We had walked into the ward at 4pm, by 5pm we were calling our three daughters to tell them I had leukaemia and by 5:30pm I had my first chemotherapy tablets.” 

Kevin (left) and James

Watching his father-in-law’s shock at his leukaemia diagnosis and the gruelling treatment he underwent has inspired James Ingham to run the London Marathon. James, 34, is a dentist living in Tetbury and his father-in-law Kevin, who is from Exeter in Devon, is currently living with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). 

“It all started in August 2022 when we were out on a family walk into Exeter city centre one day,” said James. “My wife’s dad Kevin felt unwell, light headed and weak. We put it down to the heat and went for a drink and some food. He felt better a few days later. Then, in December 2022 another funny turn occurred. However, just one week later, Kevin tested positive for COVID so we put it down to that. Kevin felt tired and wasn’t doing exercise and walks like normal, but it was winter. His wife Claire however was worried as he was pale and not looking right and other family and friends had commented too about how he was looking. But life carried on with family and work.” 

Then in February 2023 Kevin again came over light headed, breathless and weak and Claire noticed he was grey in colour. They contacted their GP and after an initial phone consultation, a week later he had a face-to-face appointment for a general check over and tests for blood pressure and oxygen levels. This didn’t reveal any answers so Kevin asked the doctor if he could have full blood tests as he knew he didn’t feel right. 

“A week later, on Friday 17th March 2023 Kevin went for his blood test and a heart tracing at 7:30am then into work as normal in his job as sales rep in the motor trade,” said James. “At 2:30pm the same day he received a phone call asking him to come straight to the hospital. When he asked why, he was just told it was best he was seen straight away. He was sent straight to Yarty ward at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital. Kevin being Kevin went back to work then home, and then arrived at the hospital with Claire at 4pm. They walked into the ward and this was when life changed in an instant.” 

Kevin (left) with daughter, wife and son in law at London Eye

“As we walked in, we heard a doctor say ‘We are expecting Kevin Foster’,” said Kevin. “We were taken straight in to a room, had bloods taken and a doctor asking questions and checking me over. The doctors were in and out and we didn’t have a clue what was going on. Then a doctor came in with a computer screen and asked us to look at some results. My white blood cells were higher than they should be and compared to results from the past. The doctor said a specialist had looked at the bloods today and that I had chronic myeloid leukaemia. It felt like the floor fell out from under us.

“Neither of us can really remember what was said next. We had walked into the ward at 4pm, by 5pm we were calling our three daughters to tell them I had leukaemia and by 5:30pm I had my first chemotherapy tablets.” 

Kevin had to stay in hospital and was disappointed he had to miss taking part in a men’s charity walk for Hospiscare. He was allowed home a few days later to celebrate his 57th birthday with the family. He then spent a couple of weeks going to and from the hospital for more tests and a bone marrow biopsy. He remains on a regular chemotherapy tablet. 

“He has had lots of side effects,” added James. “Gout, and then a reaction to the gout medication, a skin infection that’s lasted 20+ weeks, he’s lost hair in patches, and he’s tired most of the time. But he’s still working full time and enjoying spending time with the family. We make the most of every day and keep going dealing with the diagnosis one day at a time.” 

Determined to not let his leukaemia diagnosis rule his life, Kevin is back to being active. Last summer he took part in a charity walk to raise money for cancer and has signed up to three more walks this year already. 

Kevin with daughter, wife and son in law

“I’m very grateful to the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital haematology team and Yarty ward for their amazing care and support,” said Kevin. “And also, of course, for all the love and support from family and friends every day and the fabulous support on a CML Facebook support group which has helped a lot.” 

“I have felt pretty helpless throughout, apart from supporting my wife Naomi and looking after our children Phoebe, 4, and George, 2,” added James. “I felt that taking on the task of running the London Marathon and fundraising for Leukaemia UK was a way to turn a really rubbish situation into something positive. 

“I have put up a big poster about my run in my waiting room and have been amazed at the kindness and generosity a lot of the patients in the practice have shown already. And also unfortunately the number of people who have shared similar experiences with me. 

“I am very grateful to be given the opportunity to run for Leukaemia UK and I hope my story does help others who have been through a similar experience or maybe thinking they should get checked.”

Kevin (right) and son in law James at Exeter Chiefs

Visit James’ fundraising page

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