Tennis-mad Mark, who had to give up the sport during his treatment, said:
“James has inspired me not to give up on my dream. He really had to fight to get to where he is now. I think it’s amazing that he stuck at it and now he’s won the Davis Cup! It’s inspiring to see he’s never given up on tennis and now neither will I.”
I think it’s amazing that he stuck at it and now he’s won the Davis Cup! It’s inspiring to see he’s never given up on tennis.
James – who brought the Davis Cup to the visit - said: “I really enjoyed visiting CLIC Sargent Paul’s House and meeting young people like Mark. The house is a sanctuary for families coping with childhood cancer and it gives them one less thing to worry about during one of the most difficult times in their lives. I have seen the difference CLIC Sargent’s support makes to families with children and young people with cancer.”
As a special Christmas surprise, James presented a custom-made tennis racket from his private collection and a signed t-shirt to Mark, who has been supported by CLIC Sargent for the last year.
Mark was diagnosed with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) – a rare and life-threatening blood disorder in September 2014. His older sister Louise, 24, was a bone marrow match and she agreed to be a donor.
Mark said: “That’s when CLIC Sargent stepped in. Even though I wasn’t a cancer patient, I was having cancer treatment and they offered their support. I was given an amazing social worker called Rachel who offered me and my family emotional and financial support.
“I was in hospital in London for seven weeks. Luckily, Rachel arranged for my parents to stay at CLIC Sargent’s Paul’s House so they could be nearby.”
Mark’s dad Ian said: “I don’t know what we would have done without Paul’s House. We thought we would have to pay for hotels in London, which would have cost an arm and a leg.
“The house is fabulous. Eric, the house manager, and his staff are incredible. Paul’s House was a complete lifeline for us. It wasn’t a clinical place at all – it was really comfortable and welcoming. It felt like home. The staff were really supportive and I can’t speak highly enough of them.”
Now, Mark is recovering well from his bone marrow transplant.
Mark said: “I want to travel the world because now I can. My illness used to hold me back but now I can do things I never dreamt I could do before. I’m looking forward to getting back into tennis coaching. Maybe one day I’ll be coaching the next James Ward or Andy Murray.”
During his visit, James Ward also met other young cancer patients and families currently using the facility and heard about their experiences with cancer and how CLIC Sargent has been helping them cope.
Some of the young people included 21-year-old Maya Khishigbat, who has an inoperable brain tumour, which caused her to lose her sight in 2010 and Damary Dawkins who is having maintenance treatment for leukaemia.
Eric Coates, House Manager at Paul’s House, said: “We were delighted to welcome James to Paul’s House. This year, 13 families will spend Christmas Day in Paul’s House. It is a difficult and sad time as families wish they could be at home at Christmas time with their families, not having to stay and go to the hospital, but we hope we can help to make things a little bit easier for them.
We try to bring some Christmas cheer to the families who need us. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped generate funds for CLIC Sargent. Without their support, the charity wouldn’t be able to provide families the practical, financial and emotional support they need when a child is diagnosed with cancer.”
On the day, fashion designer Ted Baker, who is friends with James Ward, donated a £500 cheque to CLIC Sargent to help fund services like Paul’s House, which costs around £100,000 a year to run.