When Steve Gullick told his ten-year-old twins, Thomas and Jacob, when he told them he was climbing Kilimanjaro this September to raise money for Sheffield Children’s Hospital, their response was 'what, you?'
Steve, 40, from Rotherham, admitted: “They know it’s not something I would normally do, I hate walking and camping.”
While his sons may doubt he is up to the challenge of climbing the world’s tallest free-standing mountain, there can be no uncertainty over Steve's motivation after Thomas was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in December 2015.
Steve's wife Rebecca, 40, recalls: “The week before he was playing rugby, he had no illness, I just found a lump
"We initially thought it was an abscess, but a biopsy at Sheffield Children’s Hospital confirmed it was cancer.
“It was a huge shock, my reaction was one of complete devastation- one minute we had a healthy child, the next he had cancer, it was so frightening.”
Steve continued: “Everything was turned upside down really quickly, the tumour came out of his pelvis, so he couldn’t sit down.
"We even had to cut short a family trip to see Santa and Lapland and he had to eat Christmas dinner standing up.”
Thomas’ treatment journey spanned several rounds of life-saving chemotherapy at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, where the family spent their time on the hospital’s cancer and leukaemia ward.
Reflecting on his time there, Thomas, said: “It was difficult to sleep as there were six of us on the ward and people would move around in the night. Then you got woken up early too.
“When I was in the new wing recently, my mum had a bed and there was a lot more space to do what we wanted to.
"They were much brighter too. It would be very good if the cancer ward could be like that.”
The Children’s Hospital Charity’s new appeal will transform the ward with more space, privacy and natural light. It will create private patient rooms with en-suite facilities, giving patients a place to make their own and space for a parent to sleep comfortably alongside them.
The redevelopment will also increase the ward footprint, with larger bed bays and more isolation rooms and more than double the size of the ward class room.
It was watching Thomas face the most challenging of circumstances that prompted Steve to step out of his comfort zone to thank the hospital for his life-saving care.
Steve said: “When he was ill, I was talking with friends about what I could do to help the hospital and we saw the Kilimanjaro challenge.
"Whenever it gets hard, I’m going to think of what Thomas has been through, that’s so much worse than anything I can possibly imagine.
“If he can do that, I can certainly do this and anything we can do to make the environment nicer for other families will be more than worth it.”
Tchad Western, corporate partnerships manager at The Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “It’s so heart-warming to see Steve commit to such a bold challenge to thank the hospital for the care Thomas’ received at our hospital.
“A transformed cancer ward has never been more needed and Steve’s efforts will make a huge difference to other young patients locally and nationally who depend on the ward’s incredible care.”
John Somers, chief executive of Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We are proud to care for many children like Thomas and we are grateful to have people like Steve supporting our work here at the hospital.
“Our staff are amazing, providing specialist care with compassion every day and with the latest charity funded facilities we can go even further to help children across the UK.”