Local Hero – Pete Wallroth

Since the very beginning, the Great North Run has been a celebration of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. 

This year, the event is celebrating everyday heroes; people who give back to their communities and inspire those around them with their dedication and perseverance. 

When Pete Wallroth’s wife Mair was 22 weeks pregnant, she discovered a lump on her breast and was diagnosed with cancer.

She began chemotherapy during her pregnancy and received another cycle just six days after the birth of the couple’s second child, Merlin.

Following her seventh session, the family were given the devastating news that the cancer had spread and was untreatable.

Mair passed away in December 2012, leaving behind Pete, 38 (32 at the time), and their two children Martha, three and Merlin, who was just two months old at the time.

Following their terrible ordeal, Pete, from Glossop in Derbyshire, was inspired to set up a network of support that would make a difference to families who found themselves in the same, rare position.

Mummy’s Star was born and the charity aims to provide support and advice on cancer diagnosis in pregnancy and post natally, advocacy to support families and emergency grants for those who are affected. It is the only charity of its kind in the UK and Ireland.

In the five years since Mair’s passing, Mummy’s Star has helped over 500 families to cope with the unimaginable, when a mum is diagnosed with cancer during her pregnancy.

This year, Pete will take part in the Simplyhealth Great North Run for Mummy’s Star on Sunday 9 September.

“We went through a mixed range of emotions following the birth. How can you be there for your family without putting yourself under financial pressure, how does mum still feel like a mum when she can’t do that much?” said Pete.

“After Mair passed away, we had a drive to change this. It wasn’t anger but more to continue something in her name.

“It was only when we went to the 20-week scan, it was mentioned that Mair should go for a routine check. When she went back sadly and instantly the consultant knew it was a significantly sized tumour.

“From there everything turned upside down. There were so many uncertainties. We thought what next? Can we keep the baby? Is she going to survive?

“We responded to it with a mix of shock and worry but thankfully in our case we could proceed with the pregnancy.

“We were left juggling a situation where Mair had chemotherapy six days after giving birth, I was taking time off to be there for her and the children. She was left bed bound after treatment – at that point it highlighted there were cracks in the support.

“After losing Mair, I found something to plough my energy into, it gave me a lot of drive, so that any frustrations I did have were driven into Mummy’s Star and to make sure we could do something that was going to offer people a little bit of hope, aid and guidance.

“With the kids, it gave me something to focus on for them to show them when they are older that there was something that would to carry Mummy forward.”

Despite dealing with situations that are a painful reminder of losing his wife, Pete remains focused on tackling cancer as a topic head-on through the charity’s awareness drive.

“There are days when we struggle, both personally and with the trauma we see on a day-to-day basis. It can be tough but we cannot help other people if we are not looking after ourselves and that has always been a priority since we started.

“Running has given me that break to collect my thoughts and to be in a good place to support the fabulous people that get in touch with me.”

Dance Teacher Holley Tierney, from Derbyshire, was experiencing a pain in her arm and thought she had pulled a muscle while she was pregnant with twins, she was subsequently diagnosed with blood cancer.

Holly refused an abortion and her babies were born prematurely by caesarean at 29 weeks. Days later, she started chemotherapy. She is one of the hundreds of women who have received support from Mummy’s Star.

“I was desperate for someone that could give me advice about coping with cancer while I was pregnant, someone who could understand both sides.

“It was all so confusing and that’s when I was told about Mummy’s Star. They’ve helped me so much and pieced it all together. It’s such a strange, isolated thing to have at what should be a lovely time. Not everyone can relate to you.

“Pete understood everything I felt and answered every question I could possibly ask. He is just on the other side of the phone at any time of the day or night and has connected me to so many other women who have been involved with the charity.

“He is a God-send. When I was diagnosed, I thought no one would ever understand me but he was the one person who could help at such a horrible time. He’s like my big guardian angel.’

Mummy’s Star is also supported directly by Macmillan Cancer Support to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for advice on the cancer diagnosis, as well as links to localised services.

Pete has also dedicated time to travel to conferences to speak to nurses about dealing with  cancer diagnosis in pregnancy, as well as ensuring patients have access to specific support at hospitals like The Christie in Manchester.

Helen Savage, a specialist Macmillan gynaecology nurse, who works at The Christie says that what the Mummy’s Star has achieved over the last five years is ‘vitally important’.

“It brings patients together and helps us as staff to give them the support they need.

“Pete is fantastic, he has played a key role in advising us as healthcare professionals where we can access more help for our patients.

“If we are unsure about referral procedures he is only a phone call away. One patient was unsure about what support she could have and he knew exactly where we could direct her.

“He is always there for us.”

To find out more about Mummy’s Star, click here

Simplyhealth Great North Run is live on BBC One on Sunday 9 September, 09:30-13:30. For more information on the Simplyhealth Great North Run, visit: Greatrun.org/North