A LURGAN family, robbed of a loving husband and father, have been given a ‘symbol of hope’ that keeps his memory alive.
The symbol comes in the form of a medal from the New York Marathon, won by the late Peter Mitchell’s brother-in-law Kevin Greene.
Peter, a well-liked window cleaner in the town, passed away on July 28 having been diagnosed with an aggressive, fast growing brain tumour exactly a year ago today (Thursday).
After Peter’s diagnosis his brother-in-law Kevin Greene made the decision to train for the New York Marathon.
His logic was, although he’d never competed as a runner before, at least he had the ability to walk, unlike his brother-in-law Peter who had lost that ability.
Having completed the marathon Kevin donated the medal to his sister Deirdre. He has further plans to run three more marathons so he can present nieces Rebecca (11), Nadine (8) and Shannon (7) with three more medals.
Kevin, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Monday, said: “It all really came about when Peter was diagnosed and I saw Action Cancer were doing places for the New York Marathon.
“Peter was the inspiration for training and doing the marathon. It was also great to be able to help such a fantastic charity as Action Cancer. Peter and the family were being helped by a lot of cancer charities.
“It was a spur of the minute thing. I’m not a runner, I play a bit of football but that’s it. I saw Peter lying in hospital and I got the inspiration to do it for Peter who was wasn’t able to walk or run.”
Of his brother-in-law Kevin said: “We were very close. The fact I was doing this for a family member is what inspired me, what kept me going.
“We’d have gone to Donegal together in the caravan and we’d have done the odd job together. We’re both interested in jet skis and caravans. We’d have bought a lot of things between us. There was a strong bond there.”
Kevin, who lives in Taghnevan with his father Vincent, added: “When my mother Ann was sick he was always there for her. She died of cancer 12 years ago. That was another reason to do the marathon for Action Cancer.”
Having put in months of training including 6am starts at the swimming pool, Peter tackled the Big Apple’s showpiece event on November 6. He did the marathon in a time of five hours. In the process he raised almost £3,000 for Action Cancer.
He added: “My aim is to do three or four marathons down the line. I’ve given the first medal to Deirdre. I want to give medals to all of the children as well.”
Deirdre told how the medal serves as a symbol of hope to the family.
Of the touching moment when Kevin handed over his medal, Deirdre said: “When Kevin arrived home, he came to me with the medal he received immediately after completing the marathon.
“He told me, ‘Deirdre, I want you to have this medal’.
“I was totally stunned. He saw my reaction and told me he didn’t do the run for himself, but for Peter, and therefore he wanted the children and me to have the medal.
“I told him, ‘But Kevin, that medal is a symbol of a great achievement YOU have made’.
“He quietly told me that he will always know of his achievement inside his own mind and went on to repeat that he didn’t do the run for himself but for Peter.
“The medal serves as a symbol of hope and Kevin proves that there really are good people in our local community.”
Proudly on display along with Kevin’s medal is a family photo taken in June 2010 in Lanzarote.
Deirdre said: “Last June we went to Lanzarote for seven weeks. Looking back it was meant to be. It was such a perfect holiday.”
“When Peter got home that’s when he took his first seizure. He was playing on the trampoline with the girls when he had to stop and rest on the bench.
“I knew then something was wrong, but he was in denial. He was so, so fit and healthy. He loved walking. He couldn’t imagine it happening to him.
“He was diagnosed with epilepsy and the doctor told us when adults are diagnosed with epilepsy it usually means something more serious.”
She continued: “This time last year he was being tested. It was a year ago he got the results of the biopsy. He was told he had a brain tumour in two possible areas.
“It was a devastating diagnosis as we have three young children.
“He really didn’t handle the news well at all. As Peter was getting out of the car at home I thought he was taking a stroke. It was another strong seizure. The ambulance was called on same day he was diagnosed.
“We nearly lost him that day. We had the priest to give him the Last Rights.”
Deirdre commented: “Peter went from being a very active, well known man from the town, to being totally bed ridden within months.
“He was a really nice man, really friendly, he never offended anyone. He lived for he daughters. He loved to entertain them. He’d take them anywhere they wanted to go no matter what the cost.
“I gave up work completely when Peter was sick. I worked as a complimentary therapist.
“I didn’t want to put him in respite. He belonged with us. We used the remaining time we had together as best we could.
“He had brain surgery and radiotherapy but it wasn’t enough to save him.”
Peter died on July 28 this year aged 45.
Deirdre said: “When Peter was in hospital Kevin was babysitting the girls. I came home one night from the hospital and he was sitting with the laptop. He said, ‘Deirdre, you’ll never guess what I’ve done - I’ve signed up for the New York Marathon’.
“I said to him, ‘You’ll never do a marathon’. He said, ‘At least I can walk’.
“He said he was doing the marathon for Peter and for our mother who died of cancer 11 years ago.
“Kevin has been a rock for us. I was 14 when he was born and I used to look after him. Now it’s the other way round.”
Deirdre added: “People often say to me you’re very strong. I get strength from the meetings we go to with cancer groups as a family.
“The cancer support groups have been unbelievable - all of them. It’s impossible to single one out as they’ve all been so brilliant to us.”
With Kevin’s marathon efforts providing a focus, the family intend to keep on fundraising for local cancer organisations.