A local Liverpool man, who lost his dad to cancer, is planning a special way to celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday 16th June.
Phil Parr will be ringing the starter bell at Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life at Aintree Racecourse, before running the 10k alongside thousands of fellow Scousers.
This year the Race for Life events, which previously were women-only, are now open to everyone, including lads, dads and granddads.
And the Aintree event takes place on Father’s Day itself, Sunday June 16.
The 31-year-old from Stoneycroft said: “Cancer has plagued my family over recent years. It took my dad away from me three years ago. Then just when our family was at its lowest, my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer.”
Phil wants to encourage other men – as well as sons, daughters, mums, sisters, friends and workmates – to join him by registering at raceforlife.org.
“Father’s Day is tough when you’ve lost your dad. But when I saw that Race for Life Aintree was happening that day, I felt like it was written in the stars. I can’t think of a more perfect way to honour his memory.”
One day in 2016, Phil’s dad Andrew – a former cleaner at Tesco in Liverpool City Centre – began to struggle with his breathing and was rushed to A&E at Royal Liverpool Hospital with suspected pneumonia.
However, hospital scans showed pneumonia wasn’t the cause – and instead revealed an advanced cancer in his lungs, liver and bones.
“The doctors did a full body scan which showed up all the areas of cancer as bright colours on a screen. It was such a shock to see – the inside of Dad’s body looked like Blackpool illuminations. None of us saw it coming.”
Andrew deteriorated quickly and sadly died just two weeks after arriving at hospital – with his wife, sons and daughter-in-law by his hospital bedside. He was 73.
“I was holding Dad’s hand when he passed away. The worst thing was how his eyes went grey just before he died. That’s not the way I want to remember him.
“Only weeks before, Dad had been his usual self – telling jokes and making us laugh. He was such a young-hearted and energetic person. We just couldn’t believe what was happening.”
But more bad news was yet to come.
Just days after his father’s death, Phil’s mum Peggy confided that she’d found a lump in her left breast some time earlier – which had turned out to be cancer.
The retired shop assistant hadn’t wanted to worry her son, so didn’t reveal the full extent of her illness until she had to go into hospital for advanced treatment.
“I was scared and worried that I was going to lose Mum too,” said Phil. “One of her friends had known she was poorly and forced her to tell me what was happening.”
Peggy, 70, was treated with radiotherapy, chemotherapy and breast removal surgery at both Liverpool Royal Hospital and the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre on the Wirral.
“It was tough having to go back to the hospital where Dad died.
“There were even times when Mum said she wanted to die too. But deep down she is a fighter and I was with her every step of the way. We sat together while she was on the chemo drip and I did everything to keep her as positive as possible.”
After a year and a half of intense treatment, Peggy’s cancer is now in remission – and the family celebrated Phil’s wedding together last year. “It was hard not having Dad there on my wedding day, but we melted down his old ring and turned it into my wedding ring.”
Phil, who works as a complex needs’ carer, said: “My experience means I understand, all too well, why Cancer Research UK’s work is so important. I’m urging the people of Liverpool to show their support and join the Race for Life because every participant can help make a real difference. I’m determined to do all that I can to raise money for life-saving research to help more men, women and children survive.
“Hopefully there will soon be a cure for cancer. But in the meantime, I have to do what I can to help. I owe it to my mum and – most importantly – my dad, who I miss deeply. I want to prevent others from losing a loved one as it’s the worst feeling in the world.”
He added: “It will be very emotional seeing sons and daughters taking part with their dads and granddads, while others like me are there to honour their memory.”
Taking part in Race for Life is a hugely moving experience as people come together to remember loved ones lost to cancer, celebrate the lives of those dear to them who have survived or support those going through treatment.
Phil said: “I’m so grateful for the treatment that helped save my Mum’s life and I’m proud to be able to celebrate her survival while I also remember my Dad. By coming together, we can all do our bit to help beat cancer.”
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring series of 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer by funding crucial research.
Anna Taylor, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for the North West, said: “We are very grateful to Phil for his support.
“By following his lead, and joining the Race for Life, people in Liverpool can make a real difference in the fight against cancer. Money raised will help Cancer Research UK scientists and doctors find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease, helping save more lives.
“Our Race for Life events are fun, colourful, emotional and uplifting. You don’t need to be sporty to take part. You don’t have to train, and you certainly don’t need to compete against anyone else. It’s a perfect example of everyday people doing an extraordinary thing – uniting in a common cause to beat cancer.
“By taking part in Race for Life and raising money for research, our participants play a crucial role in helping to turn discoveries made in the lab into better treatments for patients in Liverpool and across the UK.”
Cancer Research UK’s life-saving work relies on the public’s support. Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, the charity was able to spend over £27 million last year in the North West on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.
To enter Race for Life at Aintree visit www.raceforlife.org