'They gave us time' - family thanks hospital by completing charity walk

John Johnson and his family completed the Marsden March to raise money for The Royal Marsden

John Johnson and his family completed the Marsden March to raise money for The Royal Marsden - Credit: John Johnson

A Norfolk family took part in a charity walk to repay the hospital which gave them the most valuable gift - more time with a dying loved one.

John Johnson from Hempton, near Fakenham, completed the Banham Marsden March on Sunday (May 22) to raise money for cancer charity The Royal Marsden, which cared for his wife, Liz, during her final days. 

Alongside Mr Johnson was his son Chris, daughter Emma, daughter-in-law Laura, grandson Charlie and granddaughter Lily.

Liz Johnson at her home in Fakenham. Picture: Ian Burt

Liz Johnson at her home in Fakenham in 2018 - Credit: Archant

Mrs Johnson died in 2020 after a nine-year battle with thyroid cancer. In February 2016, she was told she had just three months to live.

Wheelchair-bound and with little hope left, she was referred to The Royal Marsden, in Sutton, and given an experimental drug called Lenvatinib, made by pharmaceutical company called Eisai.

Speaking to the EDP in 2018, Mrs Johnson said: “They told me if I speak to the company directly they might let me have it.

"So I emailed them and I pleaded with them as a mother and grandmother, I told them that I want more life, and they let me have it.”

Liz Johnson and her husband John who is planning to take part in a charity walk to raise money for t

John and Liz Johnson before he planned to walk the Marsden March for the first time back in 2018 - Credit: Archant

The drug kept her alive for another four years which, Mr Johnson said, allowed the family to make more memories with his late wife.

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“They gave us time," he added. "The biggest thing for me was my two grandchildren. If Liz had died when they said, I do not think my grandchildren would have remembered her as they do now.

“Lily was only three at the time but, because of this drug, she and Charlie talk about their memories with Liz which is so lovely. I’m so pleased about what the Marsden did for her - they were absolutely brilliant."

Chris, Laura, and Charlie completed the whole 15-mile walk from Dovehouse Green to The Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton. They were joined by John, Emma and Lily for the final five miles.

Liz Johnson stands in grey with her family. From left to right. Paul Colman, Lily Johnson, Laura Joh

Liz Johnson (second from right) with her family before they took on the Marsden March in 2018 - Credit: Archant

Reaching their destination was particularly emotional for Mr Johnson, who took his wife there more than 50 times during her treatment.

“That was tear-jerking going to that hospital," he added. 

"It was very difficult as she wasn’t sitting beside me, but I’m so pleased we did it."

The group also completed the walk back in 2018 and have so far raised £1,250.

To donate, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/thejohnsons2022.