The Banham Marsden March 2023:
Marching in Memory
The Marsden March is a long-running organised sponsored walk in support of cancer research and treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital. Since 2015 it has been sponsored by Banham, the locks and security company.
The full 15 mile route of the March links the hospital’s two sites, in Fulham and Sutton. It has a slight overall upslope, heading towards the downs, and most of it is on pavements.
Last year I walked the shorter, 5 mile, route with my old friend Sally Jarman, my dad and my sister, Liz Fernandez. I guess I knew at the time that it would probably be my last proper walk with dad; I didn’t realise that it would be the last with Liz too. After years of treatment for cancer, both of them died in the final months of 2022. This year, in just over a week, I will be walking with their names written on my back, not as “under treatment” but “in memory”.
For me, one irony and sweetness about the Marsden March is that my dear sister, Liz, spent her entire professional career working for this hospital. After studying physics at Swansea she began work at the Fulham branch, later on working mainly at Sutton until her final illness forced a retirement on health grounds. But for a period she was both working and under treatment at the Marsden!
Liz worked in the planning of how to beam radiation onto a cancer with accuracy and minimal damage to surrounding tissues. For thirty years she contributed in the treatment of thousands of patients and she added to the sum of knowledge in this very technical area. If you wish to see a powerpoint with some of her work, look here: I can make neither head nor tail!
As it happens, Liz’ own cancer was not one that could be treated by radiotherapy. She underwent radical surgery to try to remove the dangerous cells. For a time that seemed to have been successful, but then they came back. She went through round after round of chemotherapy, including trial approaches. In the end, the road ran out and she died just before last Christmas. My brother-in-law, Paul, gave the eulogy at her funeral.
Many from my family are on the March this year. We will be walking as a team in memory of Liz and of my Dad, who died last September. For me, there is also my sister-in-law Rachel to remember. She passed away at the end of 2021. All these three benefitted from extra time with us through treatment recived at the Marsden.
And we have the living to support too. My mum is still receiving treatment at the Royal Marsden, Sutton. Others from our wider family and friendship group also. And we walk in gratitude for those who have received treatment and gone on to really long-term recovery. The Royal Marsden hospital doesn’t only prolong – there are cures too!
Photos © copyright Andrew King Photography