Why I have chosen to run five marathons for Leuka

Finbarr Cotter, Professor of Haematology at Barts and The London School of Medicine running a 10k in support of Leuka

19th August 2016

Professor Finbarr Cotter is Clinical Director for Pathology and Consultant Haemato-Oncologist at Barts Hospital, London. Finbarr talks about his work and why he supports Leuka.

“When I qualified as a doctor in 1978 one of my first patients had acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and was one of the first to be treated with chemotherapy for this disease. Having been taught that AML was incurable it was remarkable that the patient recovered, as did my next two patients. These early experiences led to my lifelong career in haematology.

Little did I know that 10 years after becoming a haematologist my own father would develop leukaemia and 25 years later, after a long struggle, my mother also died of AML. Over the years I have seen many changes in leukaemia therapy alongside vastly improved survival rates. But we still have a long way to go.

In 2013, my daughter Sorcha persuaded me to run the Classic Athens Marathon with her. Just prior to the race my mother was diagnosed with leukaemia. As it became clear she would not survive my running gave me time to think and to get things into perspective.  My difficulties were minor compared to what she was going through. 

Happily, I had the chance to show her my medal before she died. After her death I found that my running helped me to cope with the loss. My friends in the running community all have their own individual reasons to run. For me that’s raising vital funds for Leuka.

I have run five marathons for Leuka in memory of my parents and my patients past and present. Over the past 40 years I never ceased to be inspired by their bravery. Running the 2015 and 2016 London Marathons was a good way to celebrate their lives.”

Finbarr’s story was featured in our 2015 Annual Review, which you can download here.