Island firefighter takes his crew on a coastline challenge following cancer recovery

A crew from Ryde will be swapping their fire boots and hoses for walking boots and oars as they circle the Isle of Wight for a brain tumour charity.

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Published

12/05/2022 10:55am

Author

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service

Firefighter Mark Grimes will be joined by his intrepid crew from Ryde Fire Station as they circumnavigate the Isle of Wight coast this summer to raise money for the charity he and his wife Kat set up, The Wight Brainy Bunch.

Setting off in an anti-clockwise direction from Ryde’s hovercraft launch pad at approximately 9am (tide dependent) on Friday 22 July, the Green Watch crew will have come full circle, returning to the same spot on Sunday evening, having covered 20 miles per day across sand, rocks and mud, with the occasional swim or kayak when walking isn’t possible!

Mark’s close friend Chas Wright is set to retire as one of Ryde’s watch managers next year, but first wanted to complete one last charity mission before leaving the fire service.

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The route the Ryde crew will be taking.

Firefighter Mark Grimes said:

“It’s a huge challenge to take on, and it means so much to me that Chas and the rest of the team are willing to dedicate their time and efforts to fundraise for our charity, which supports those affected by brain tumours, something I am incredibly passionate about following my own experiences.”

Following a CT scan on his 34th birthday back in 2015, Mark was found to have a brain tumour and was required to remain awake throughout a four-hour craniotomy.

An anxious wait for the surgery saw Mark and Kat put through a rollercoaster of emotions as they looked after their young family.

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Mark’s scar following surgery

Kat Grimes said:

“Mark was previously a fit and healthy 34-year-old and we had everything we wanted in life, good jobs, a new house and a nine-month-old baby boy who doted on his daddy!”

“You never think things like this will happen to you, but things can change so quickly.”

A successful procedure initially left Mark with badly affected speech and a shadow of his former self, but an incredible turnaround saw him quickly return to full fitness, back to work on non-operational duties and able to drive again.

Just over two years on from his first surgery, Mark completed the London Marathon in under three hours, fundraising for those affected by brain tumours.

However, in 2019, four days on from completing the London Marathon for a second time, Mark was given the devastating news that his tumour had begun to grow again, and a rare second surgery was required, followed by radiotherapy and a 60-week course of chemotherapy.

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Mark and Kat

Mark said:

“During my chemotherapy the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. I was told to shield as I was classed as extremely clinically vulnerable and I had to stay away from my station and my friends as my immune system was being destroyed by the treatment.”

Amazingly Mark has cleared all these hurdles and having completed his treatment is once again back at the fire station on full operational duties keeping the people of Isle of Wight safe.

After the journey that they have been on, the family want to give something back, raising money and awareness of this debilitating disease that has changed their lives forever.

Kat said:

“Mark’s tumour is not curable, but it is controllable. Given his age it is likely he will need to be treated again in the future with either further surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

“But for now we can’t sit worrying about what might happen or what could have happened.

“It is our intention to live life to the full and do all we can to enjoy our family and make lots of memories. None of us know what the future holds.”

The couple set up The Wight Brainy Bunch to provide emotional support and financial assistance to island families affected by brain tumours.

The charity funds a variety of services, including travel costs to Southampton for treatment, purchasing of specialist equipment, short breaks and memory making experiences for those with a terminal diagnosis, counselling services, physiotherapy to aid mobility and cognitive rehabilitation therapy.

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Mark added:

“We are committed to providing a support network locally on the Isle of Wight to patients and their families who are living with the devastating effects of brain tumours.

“The Wight Brainy Bunch has organised many fundraising events, including vintage garden parties, car washes, a pop-up pub quiz, murder mystery, road & trail race, a music concert, bingo night and annual black-tie dinners.”

The next fundraiser is the Ryde Fire Station crew’s epic island adventure. The intrepid coastline challengers include:

  • Watch Manager Chas Wright (and his son)
  • Crew Manager Ross Smallcombe
  • Firefighter Mark Grimes
  • Firefighter Rob Hunnybun
  • Firefighter Paul Berry
  • Firefighter Becks Thompson
  • Firefighter Wayne Jones
  • Firefighter Ross Singleton
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Ryde Green Watch

If any local businesses would also like to sponsor the event, please contact the charity on: info@thewightbrainybunch.org.uk.

To donate, please visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/greenvswight.

Or to donate £5, text the word GREEN to 70460.

To donate more, simply text GREEN followed by the amount (for example GREEN10 will donate £10).

You can also donate directly to the charity via their website: www.thewightbrainybunch.org.uk/donate.

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