Fundraising efforts are ensuring that Nathan Ward is never forgotten. He was 22 when he died, after battling a brain tumour for 18 months. Clare Semke speaks to his mother Dawn, who has dedicated herself to raising money for charity in his name
Nathan ‘Spuddy’ Ward (pictured) holds a special place in many people’s hearts.
So much so that more than two years after his tragic death, his memory lives on in a wealth of activities that are held in his name.
It was on Nathan’s 21st birthday in 2010 that he was diagnosed with three brain tumours after bleeding behind his eye was spotted by an optician.
Mum Dawn Farnham, 48, says: ‘We came back from holiday in July. He had headaches, we just thought it was a virus.
‘He had had new glasses and I said “go to the opticians just to make sure your glasses are ok”. They picked up the bleeding behind his eye. That was in October.
‘He had been back and forth to the doctors numerous times but nothing was done. They said it was sinusitis.
‘They sent him for a special eye test. That’s when they got in touch and said “you need a brain scan”. He had the scan at Queen Alexandra Hospital and they found three tumours.’
Nathan was taken to Southampton General Hospital where he was told he had germinoma – a type of tumour.
Dawn remembers: ‘The doctor’s words were “if you are going to get a brain tumour that’s the best type to get”.’
Nathan started a six-week course of radiotherapy which ended on New Year’s Eve.
Then a scan in February the following year revealed the two smaller tumours had shrunk. The larger tumour had shrunk a little and medics said it was early days and they would keep monitoring it.
But by March Nathan’s condition had worsened.
Dawn says: ‘They said the bigger tumour was actually a mixed tumour so part of it reacted to the radiotherapy and the other part didn’t and was still growing, so then he had to have chemotherapy.
‘Then in the August he was told he was cancer free.’
The following month the tumour was removed: ‘From there I really don’t know what happened,’ Dawn says. ‘He did then get a further tumour which they said was inoperable. It was too deep.’
Nathan underwent more chemotherapy but by Christmas he was struggling to walk. ‘He had fallen out of bed twice,’ says Dawn. ‘The tumour affected his balance, he was bed-bound basically.
‘The doctors said the last chance was a bone marrow transplant.’
Nathan underwent the transplant but suffered a chest infection.
Fighting back tears, Dawn says: ‘On Friday, January 13 they were draining fluid off his shunt. He had a massive seizure. He was in high dependency, he couldn’t breath for himself.
‘On the Monday morning they phoned and said “he’s not responsive.” They said “he’s got 24 to 48 hours to live.” He passed away that Monday evening.
‘His friends were all coming up to see him, they had all taken time off work. I had to make the phone call to say “you’re coming up to say goodbye.”
‘I said what I hoped for was he goes surrounded by his friends. He waited until they were all in there and took his last breath.’
Nathan died on January 16 2012, aged 22.
But Dawn, of Cornflower Close, Locks Heath, is keeping her son’s memory very much alive.
She has held events in Nathan’s name, from table top sales to a ‘black and white’ party on what would have been his 23rd birthday.
In doing so she has raised thousands of pounds for Brain Tumour Research.
The money she has raised with husband Colin, 49, and others, has meant they have been able to pay for two plaques in Nathan’s memory to be put up at the Brain Tumour Research centre of excellence at the University of Portsmouth.
The commemorative plaques each symobolise £2,740 donated to the centre – said to be the cost of a day of research, which they have funded – on the ‘Wall of Hope.’
A THIRD plaque is set to be unveiled in memory of Nathan Ward thanks to the fundraising efforts of the pub where he worked.
Kindhearted staff at the Silver Fern in Warsash Road, Warsash, put on a raft of events to raise cash in his memory.
The hard work of manager Sharon Brown, 46, assistant manager Sarah Dalziel, 28, Eve Green 30, and other staff means Nathan’s mum can now fulfill her wish to put up another plaque at the University of Portsmouth’s Brain Tumour Research Centre in the St Michaels Building.
Each plaque stands for £2,740 that has been raised the cost of sponsoring a day’s research into brain tumours.
Sharon says: ‘Every year we do a fundraising event on August bank holiday Monday.
‘This year Sarah and I were chatting about what we should do it for.
‘I wanted to do something a little bit different.
‘Nathan was just so lovely. Being a mum myself as well it was hard. It was an easy decision to do it in memory of Nathan. He’s so close to all of his friends.
‘Before he started working here he was a customer. Even now they are always here so really it’s a constant reminder. It’s almost as if he’s still around too.’
Eve designed posters and Sarah organised events, including a visit from Peppa Pig and fun and games for children spanning the Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday of the bank holiday break.
Even the appalling weather on August bank holiday Monday did not stop the team in their efforts, with Sarah organising lunch inside for the children.
At one point about seven people did the Ice Bucket Challenge in their Brain Tumour Research T-shirts too.
The team raised £472.08 from the events - but they didn’t stop there.
Sarah says: ‘I decided that I wanted to get to £500. I said I was just going to keep going for the week and see how far I could get. I got to £500 by the middle of Tuesday. I just carried on and carried on.’
Generous customers has now raised more than £600 for the charity, and you can still donate at the Silver Fern.