Swindon woman's Prospect Hospice charity trek in memory of late husband

By Barrie Hudson - 8 March 2024

  • Harry and Sinéad

    Harry and Sinéad

Interview: Sinéad Nolan-Martin is preparing for a fundraising trek in aid of Prospect Hospice later this month

Harry Martin was 25 when he died of a rare cancer, and his wife, Sinéad, was 24.

Throughout his illness, members of the Prospect Hospice team were on hand with help, support, advice, comfort and kindness, and Sinéad is determined to do all she can to help the beloved charity, whose work has touched the lives of many thousands of people throughout the Swindon area and beyond.

Having already raised thousands of pounds for the hospice last year with a trek across the Sahara and Atlas Mountains, on 17 March she and fellow members of Team Prospect will begin a three-day sponsored expedition across rugged mixed terrain in Iceland.

She is full of admiration for the hospice, for the strength and support of family - Harry's parents, Eileen and Tony, her own mum and dad Frances and Dermot and stepfather Graham - and especially for Harry himself.

"He really was somebody who thought about other people a lot. He wanted to provide and protect and support people. 

"He took that role seriously and he hated what this had done to us. He saw how it broke our hearts. He was faced with his mortality and he knew the reality that he might not be around in the future and we would have to deal with that and live with that, and I think he tried his best in everything that he did to make us strong and to set us up as best he could for that eventuality.

"He succeeded. I think I wouldn't be dealing with things now, how I am, without that inner strength coming from him and how he prepared us for this life without him."

In the midst of his illness, Harry, although in pain, raised £8,500 for the Teenage Cancer Trust, wheeling himself 5.7 miles around Old Town. 

Harry and Sinéad were friends at 13, began dating at 15 and were together for a decade.

"We went through school and college and university together, and he was always a very determined and disciplined guy who was really focussed on fitness.

"He had just been accepted into the Army and was about to start training when he experienced some back pain - which was not unusual for him because of the weights he lifted, but this wasn't shifting. This was the start of lockdown - April 2020 - and because of the restrictions at the time he couldn't see a doctor so he was diagnosed over the phone with a herniated disc. 

"But the anti-inflammatories he was prescribed weren't helping and quite quickly he began to lose feeling on one of his legs. 

"He was struggling to walk and this pain was getting worse. He was sent to Great Western Hospital for a scan, which revealed something, and he was then immediately referred to John Radcliffe in Oxford to do further tests.

"They found a tumour in his spine and metastases throughout his spine as well. He had undergo a really invasive surgery to reveal what it was.

"They couldn't remove any of it because of where it was - they just had to take a sample to prescribe the best course of treatment - and he was diagnosed with glioblastoma.

"But his case was extremely rare. They were quite surprised to find out where it was, and it meant that they didn't have a lot of data on that specific case."

Within a couple of weeks of entering hospital, Harry's illness  left him paralysed from the waist down. 

"We were quite quickly put in touch with Prospect Hospice. At the time I remember feeling really resistant to that idea, that referral, because it felt like kind of giving up hope before we'd even really started the journey.

"That was because my perspective of the hospice was really quite dark. I just associated it with end-of-life, dying, and the last resort, really. So it was quite a shock for us all to be linked up with them so soon, before Harry started treatment. But very quickly they became this incredible support to lean on and my perspective totally changed.

"They tailor their support to the individual, and obviously Harry was unique in the sense that he was very young; his condition was presenting in unique ways. 

"They did an incredible job of making us feel we had a network of people out there who would advocate for us and find the best support service available, any equipment we needed, any grant we might need to fund things like that. They took over in ways that I didn't know they could and provided so much more than that deathbed service I had pictured in my head."

Sinéad is grateful to everybody sent by Prospect, but especially singled out the work of Pip from the physiotherapy team and Debbie Robson, one of the people who helped Harry and his loved ones toward the end of his life.

"What we went through was awful, but I can't imagine how much worse the nightmare could have been if they hadn't been there to hold our hands through it. I don't think I'd be able to cope with the things I'm coping with now if it weren't for them.

"I will maintain those bonds and relationships and they know they can call on me at any time if they're looking for someone to talk about their experience or be involved in a campaign or something. They're like family to me now and I want other people to have that support too."  

People can sponsor Sinéad's Iceland Trek via justgiving.com/page/sinead-iceland-harry

They can find out more about Propsect Hospice and opportunities to support it at www.prospect-hospice.net

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