Lifestyle

New dad loses his own father to brain cancer six months after diagnosis


Adam and Catherine with Marley (Picture: 30yard Media Ltd/John Patrick Fletcher)

Leyton Orient footballer Adam Thompson welcomed a new baby during lockdown, but also lost his beloved father to brain cancer.

Adam’s dad, Mark, died of a rare brain cancer, Glioblastoma multiforme, at 57 just before restrictions were placed – then Adam and his partner Catherine Turner later welcomed baby boy Marley into their family.

Adam, 28, has been a regular fixture on the pitch, making appearances for Watford, Southend, Brentford and Bradford in his career, and helping Bury and Rotherham secure promotion before signing for Orient at the beginning of this year.

He credits his dad Mark for getting him into the game, recalling going to training sessions at the age of seven, but hating the experience – he would scream, cry and walk off the pitch, only giving it one more try because he was coaxed with a shiny new pair of football boots.

This close relationship Mark had with Adam’s playing career meant that he was hit hard personally and professionally when his dad tragically died at the age of 57, last February, only six months after his original diagnosis.

‘That was the hardest moment for me in terms of off the field,’ the Harlow native said, explaining that one of his first symptoms was that he forgot his own phone number.

‘That was at Rotherham, we were in the process of trying to get promoted. It was horrible. He’d been diagnosed with brain cancer since August, so the beginning of the season. So for the whole season, I was playing knowing that he was going through it.

Adam and dad Mark before he was diagnosed (Picture: 30yard Media Ltd)

‘I knew his time was limited, so then anything I did on the pitch, I knew that was going to be his last memory of me. I tried my best to try to make him proud.

‘It was a season where we got promoted, he didn’t get to see the promotion because he passed away in February but I like that he saw that promotion season.

‘That’s always nice to have as his lasting memories. That was the hardest bit, when he actually passed away. But we try to make it positive. When he got diagnosed, he still came to every game.

Adam, brother Olly, Mum Tracey and partner Catherine with son Marley (Picture: 30yard Media Ltd/John Patrick Fletcher)

‘He’d come up to Rotherham every game, he’d come to every away game. I don’t know how he did it with the energy he had because he was under radiotherapy. He’s just amazing like that.’

The family have been struggling with their loss in lockdown with close friends and loved ones rallying around in support, even taking on charity football matches and 5K races to raise awareness for his illness.

When the news came that Adam and Catherine were welcoming their first child, the couple decided to give baby Marley the middle name Mark in tribute.

Enjoying a family Christmas (Picture: 30yard Media Ltd)

‘It was something just to look forward to, because there was nothing to look forward to anymore,’ Adam said.

‘Without my dad here, it’s just not the same. He’d come and watch me every game. The entire family would make a day of it. Whereas now it makes it into a negative because he’s not here anymore. But then Marley came.

‘Everyone loses their own sense of purpose. With dad, we all lost that. So now we’ve got this to focus on. Now I can follow in his steps as well, it’s something for me to aspire to.

Sweet pictures like this help Adam keep memories of his dad (Picture: 30yard Media Ltd)

‘It’s something little but it gives us all that sense that he’s in Marley. It seems like he’s a little him. He gives us that sense that he’s still here with us.’

Adam’s football career has been filled with memories. For example, he played with Harry Kane in the game where Kane scored a hat trick which led to Tottenham re-signing him after they had previously let him go.

Adam also played under Gianfranco Zola in 2013 at Watford, which he says was ‘amazing’.

Just like grandad Mark, baby Marley will be watching from the stands (Picture: 30yard Media Ltd)

And it seems that Marley will be a regular at matches once restrictions allow too, so he can enjoy the stands just as his granddad Mark did.

‘He would be only about three, four months, so I’m not sure how much awareness he has,’ Adam said.

‘Me and my girlfriend are caught between trying to make the most of him like a baby and not being able to wait for him to be able to hug us, to talk to us, smile, laugh, that interaction.

‘So I’m caught between not wanting to wish away the time but, at the same time, not being able to wait for that to happen.

‘I can’t wait until he can know what’s going on. I’m not sure how long that will take but I’m excited for him to be in a stadium. I’m really excited for him to have his little Leyton Orient top on, and come and watch me soon.’

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