Running the London Marathon to help kidney patients like her husband and son
- Credit: Archant
Cat's husband has already had a kidney transplant, one day her son could need one too. Her response? To run. This month the woman who skipped school PE lessons if they involved running, tackles the London Marathon.
Two years ago Matt Tansley had a life-saving kidney transplant; on the first anniversary of the op his wife Cat vowed to go running for the first time ever; this spring she will run the London Marathon to raise money for a national kidney disease charity.
And the money she raised could one day help nine-year-old Harry, who has the same illness as his father and grandmother.
Matt discovered he had polycystic liver and kidney disease in his early 20s. Three years ago he was put on the transplant waiting list.
'I was getting increasingly tired, lethargic and generally feeling unwell which put a strain on both family and work life,' said Matt who lives with Cat and their two sons at Aldeby, near Beccles, and works as the Virgin Money Lounge manager in Norwich. 'I had many of the symptoms associated with loss of kidney function including a metallic taste, leg fits and utter exhaustion. I slept a lot more and felt unable to complete many tasks at home and it was starting to affect my capability to work too. This was very unlike me as I'm a very active person.'
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His father offered to donate a kidney, losing five stone in weight in a remarkable effort to be fit enough for the operation. 'I was very proud of him,' said Matt. But in the early hours of a January morning last year, the family woke to a telephone call from Addenbrooke's Hospital. Another matched kidney had been found.
Within hours Matt had a new kidney, and a new life.
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'I'm so, so thankful to the donor and their family for making such a massive difference to mine and my family's lives,' said Matt.
He discovered the donor was male, a few years old than him, and also met the other person who was given a kidney from the same man. 'We ended up in next door beds in hospital, so I have a kidney brother now!' said Matt. 'We call the kidneys Bill and Ben!'
And his own family can now look forward to the future. 'I have the energy to enjoy family days out and we can live without the constant worry of the unknown. I'm able to work normally, in a very busy role, and I can enjoy life to the full again.'
On April 23 he will be in the crowds of spectators in London, with sons Harry and five-year-old Tommy, cheering Cat on as she runs her way towards raising vital funds for the National Kidney Federation.
Cat grew up in Lowestoft, and Matt lived in nearby Ringsfield, near Beccles. The couple met as teenagers and married 12 years ago.
Cat was with Matt when he went for the initial scan which revealed he had kidney disease, supporting him through discovering he had inherited the illness from his mother, then as he became more and more ill, and eventually through the transplant and recovery.
On the first anniversary of the transplant, she decided to get fit herself.
'I decided that I needed to shape up and get fit,' said Cat. 'Otherwise it could be me having health problems in the future. I started by following the 'Couch 2 5K' app. After four weeks I was able to run eight minutes without stopping, which was a massive achievement for me! I have never really been a sporty person.'
And so the girl who had never run, even managing to skip PE lessons, joined Beccles and Bungay Harriers running club and by May completed the three mile Gorleston Park Run, running alongside a friend.
'After we finished we chatted about the possibility of entering the ballot for the Virgin Money London Marathon as it gave us something to aim for. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be running a marathon!' said Cat. 'I then ran in my first official race when I completed the Run Norwich 10k in August 2016. Since then I have ran the Great Yarmouth Half Marathon, the Lowestoft Half Marathon and the Adnams 10k as well as the Turkey Trot 10 miles. I have well and truly caught the running bug!
'I love getting out in the fresh air, seeing some beautiful countryside and sights, and having some alone time to reflect.'
Cat, who works for Suffolk County Council, said the hardest thing about the training has been fitting it around the rest of her commitments - and being tired and hungry
Sometimes nine-year-old Harry will join her, cycling alongside his mum as she trains.
'We found out when we had the 20 week pregnancy scan that there was an issue with his kidneys,' said Cat. 'We then had lots of scans and there was a concern that Harry had the childhood form of the disease, which can be a lot worse. Thankfully this was not the case.
'We knew that there was a 50pc chance of passing on the condition as it was hereditary, however it normally shows in the early 20s and not antenatally and often the effects don't come into play until the age of 40 to 50, like with Matt`s mother.'
Right now Harry is fit and active with a particular talent for football and swimming. He plays football for Beccles Town Hornets and is part of Norwich City's Player Development Centre. He also takes part in lots of sport tournaments and represented his cluster of schools, in the finals of the Norfolk School Games.
Harry's kidneys are working well at the moment but he is eventually likely to need a kidney transplant.
'Before we had children we went to see three specialists and they said that although there was a 50pc of a child inheriting, medical science would have moved on and it would be 50 or 60 years down the line. But the condition manifested itself early due my faulty gene mixing with Cat`s destructive gene,' explained Matt.
For the first few months of his life they feared Harry was about to die. 'We took him home, but thought we would lose him. It was a terrible time,' he said. But then tests revealed Harry's kidneys were working normally.
Matt owes his health to the stranger who agreed to give his organs and knows that, barring medical advances, Harry too will one day rely on a similar gift. 'I am grateful to the donor, to his family, to the medical staff at Addenbrooke's who performed the transplant and at the Norfolk and Norwich where I am looked after now,' he said. And he is trying to put into words the gratitude he feels, for the family of the donor. 'I have tried to write a letter and got about half way through and get upset. When I was ill I pretended it was happening to someone else, someone I felt very sorry for, but who wasn't me. I want to be able to thank the donor's family for what they have done for us.' And he urged other people to sign up to be organ donors.
In previous years Cat watched the London Marathon on television, this year she will be running it, knowing that every step of the long route will be raising money to help her husband, her son and many thousands like them.
Matt's story has also inspired one of his customers to raise money for the National Kidney Federation.
Sixty-eight-year-old Phillip Laurier hopes to be able to run the London Marathon for the charity – despite breaking his hip when his bicycle hit black ice in January. Phillip, of Corton, near Lowestoft, loves running, has previously completed several marathons and is still working, with a regular paper round.
'For Phillip to recover and run the marathon is an extremely tall order but he is determined to complete it as he has been trying to obtain an entry for many years,' said Pete Revell, head of fundraising for the National Kidney Federation. 'Phillip decided to support his bank manager's chosen charity. And strangely enough, Cat's first job was as a waitress in Lowestoft when she was 16, and she used to serve Mr Laurier in the restaurant she worked at!'
The National Kidney Federation is the largest kidney patient charity in the UK and is run for kidney patients by kidney patients, offering help, advice and support. For more information visit www.kidney.org.uk
To sponsor Cat go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/CatTansley
To sponsor Phillip go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/PhillipLaurier