On Tuesday morning Luke Johnston and a hoard of his supporters set off from the Cliff Hill Training Ground for his March to the Arch - walking a marathon a day to reach Wembley Stadium to raise vital funds for a vaccine for his rare condition.
In March 2023 Luke, aged just 35, received the devastating diagnosis of a stage 4 glioblastoma, following the discovery of a brain tumour. The diagnosis comes with a truly bleak prognosis: the average glioblastoma survival time is 12-18 months – only 25% of patients survive more than one year, and only 5% of patients survive more than five years.
It was only last year, in 2022 that Luke was celebrating his marriage to the wonderful Niamh in Northern Ireland, surrounded by their nearest and dearest. A year later and all those plans about how’d they’d spend the rest of their lives together have been cruelly curtailed.
But there is some hope. They’ve recently learned about a ground-breaking new treatment called DCVAX-L, they knew they had to do everything in their power to help. This personalised cancer vaccine is made from each patient's own dendritic cells, which help the immune system recognise and attack tumour cells. However, the treatment is expensive, costing between £150,000-£250,000, and not currently available on the NHS. We hope this vaccine becomes accessible for Luke and if it does, we pray that it can extend his time with us. If the vaccine doesn't become an option then the funds will be used for bucket list experiences.
An incredible £127,000 has been raised already to support Luke and donations have come from all over the world, showing just how loved Luke is! If you can spare even a couple quid, please do donate at: marchtothearch.co.uk
"Earlier this year I had a few headaches and then I was diagnosed with stage 4 brain tumour and ever since then we've ben trying to raise money for all sorts of different treatments," Luke said.
"We're doing March to the Arch, which is 27 miles a day, and we hope to get to Wembley next Tuesday! I've got friends and family here with me from all over the country, it is an absolutely incredible turnout and we are delighted
"It's been quite a journey for me. The NHS are incredibly amazing and now I'm just taking it one step at a time on my fitness, which hopefully will show on the walk.
"The treatment is a unique double edged sword as we need the tumour to come back and grow so they can take it out, then they can inject this vaccine into me so it can combat it. The treatment is phase away from being approved on the NHS, which could take years, and that is why it is so expensive at the moment."
Good luck, Luke! Everyone at Exeter City is fully behind you!