Sunderland cancer survivor Patrick makes the Great North Run a family affair

Patrick Tonks is coming home to make the Great North Run a family affair.

Wednesday, 31st August 2016, 11:06 pm
PatrickTonks with wife Jill, and children Sam, Annie, and Molly
PatrickTonks with wife Jill, and children Sam, Annie, and Molly

Former St Aidan’s pupil Patrick will be running alongside wife Jill, and children Sam, 24, Annie, 21, and 17-year-old Molly to mark his return to fitness after treatment for a rare form of cancer.

Four years ago, Patrick was so weak he could barely walk up a flight of stairs and sometimes had to use a wheelchair, after undergoing treatment for cancer of the tonsil, a rare condition which his GP had never seen before.

Within a few weeks of being diagnosed, Patrick - who now lives in Claygate, Surrey - had surgery to remove the tumour, his tonsil and the majority of his teeth on one side of his mouth.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He then had eight weeks of chemotherapy, followed by six weeks of daily radiotherapy.

“I lost two-and-a-half stone and I had real difficulty walking any distance at all,” he said.

“At one point I went to see my daughter take part in a local event and I had to go in a wheelchair as I didn’t have the strength to stand and watch her.

“I knew that I had to increase my strength, both physically and mentally, and it was during a discussion with my wife that I decided to set myself goals to motivate me. The first one was to run the London Marathon.

“It was a stupid idea because at that point I couldn’t even climb up a flight of stairs but running became a vital part of my recovery programme.”

Sam was so proud of his dad that he signed up for the marathon too and in 2014, they crossed the finish line together in just under five and a half hours. Last year Patrick took part in the Great North Run for the first time with daughter Annie.

This year Jill and all three children also applied for a place in the half marathon without telling him: “My wife has never run in her life, not even as a child, and my youngest is a typical 17-year-old who doesn’t ‘do’ sport,” said Patrick.

“Doing this with my whole family is quite amazing. I will be a blubbering mess at the end of the run.”

The family will be raising funds for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust, where Patrick is chief executive, which supports families affected by retinoblastoma, a rare form of childhood eye cancer Cancer impacts the family as much as it does the individual and part of the reason for doing this as a family is to recognise that we got through it together.

“Everyone’s experience of cancer is different but for me, it made me really appreciate those close to me and in particular my family. It also inspired me to apply for the role at the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust when I saw it advertised because I really wanted to help other families affected by cancer.

“We are all very proud to be fundraising for this fantastic charity, which does vital work to support families affected by a rare and aggressive form of eye cancer.”

You can sponsor the Tonks family at