Phil Martinez, our charity manager, tells us his motivation for being involved with the charity

Ten years after his mum died of a brain tumour, and one year after starting his role with OSCAR’s, our Charity Manager, Phil Martinez, shares why the charity is so important to him.

I have had ten years without a mum. Patricia Martinez-Williams, died in 2013 on my son’s birthday, aged just 66, of a brain tumour, just under a year before Oscar died of the exact same.

She was everything you want a mum to be: kind, strong, loving, funny – and mine. Well, I say mine, but she was everyone’s because she gave of herself to the whole community, whether it be working for charity or in schools or as a local councillor or just as someone who was there for others no matter who they were. She was a local legend, and of course I would say that as her son, but the crowds that couldn’t fit into the sizeable church where her funeral was held tell the tale also.

Like Oscar and so many others with brain tumours -children in particular- her diagnosis was missed. It was put down to stress by her GP. And I missed it as well. I was on the other side of the country and saw her occasionally, but I remember -with pain ever since- that I dismissed what seemed like anxiety and unusual behaviour on one occasion she visited to babysit my young children. Jack, aged four, had said she had been acting strangely, but I thought she was just being silly to entertain them. Her text messages were starting to have more typos in, but we all do a typo every now and again, don’t we? No-one put it all together and why would we – the awareness of the symptoms of brain tumours was dreadful back then and still is now. This is one thing we at OSCAR’s strive to change. We see awareness as key to the battle against brain tumours – being left with the feeling of ‘If only I had realised’ only compounds the hurt you feel.

We booked a holiday to Benidorm for the five of us, back to where mine and my mum’s story began, to help ‘alleviate the stress’. Two days later, after my sister Rebecca was shocked by Mum’s strange behaviour while out shopping, our lives changed. Rebecca took her to hospital and soon after Mum was diagnosed with a brain tumour. We had been worried it was Alzheimer’s and irreversible, but this was cancer and survival rates for cancer were a lot higher than when I was young, weren’t they? So, that would be ok, maybe? Well, I know now they are criminally low for brain tumours – only 12% of people diagnosed with one survive after five years.. We never really got her back. There were flashes, but this beautiful, powerful, caring, funny woman was turned to a shell of her former self before passing from our lives forever. We never got our holiday together.

While she was ill, Oscar also got ill. I knew Marie from the PTA and Seb was in my football club and Oscar was on my radar after he blasted five goals past me in the School Summer Fair penalty shoot-out when he was in Reception. None of this diving out of the way to let one in nonsense – I was diving out of the way to avoid his thunderbolts. I have a picture on my desk of him taking a penalty and it still strikes me with fear! I told him he would be my captain when he got to Year 6. He got ill two months before he would have played for school in a Y3 tournament. He was not to be my captain, but I gave Ian the captain’s armband Oscar deserved but never got to wear. It was only right.

My mum was in the final weeks of her life when she heard about Oscar and asked what she could do. She could barely do anything for herself but she wanted to do something for him. “We have got to help that poor, little boy, Philip,” she said to me. She was selfless to the last. And she was right – we had to help. I didn’t want to lose someone else I knew to a brain tumour, and I felt a bond to the Hughes Family -albeit a bond neither of us wanted- so I was involved in the fundraising drive to get Oscar better treatment in America.  But, in parallels to my mum, Oscar relapsed and was taken from us too soon. It is always too soon, no matter what your age. But, nine is way too soon. Devastatingly too soon.

When Marie, Ian and their friends set up the charity, I had to be involved. Like them I wanted to channel the sorrow for good. For Oscar but also for my mum. I wear an OSCAR’s wristband every day in their memory, and in the memory now of Ian and Milo and others I have learnt the stories of over this year. I have another wristband on my bedside table with the necklace that my mum always wore circled inside of it, showing how closely linked they are in my heart and my thoughts.

I have scrambled through mud, run marathon relay legs despite struggling to walk, worn a stupid chicken hat, collected for hours on end in Sainsburys, climbed a few mountains, selflessly won a few charity quizzes for OSCAR’s. I have laughed and I have cried and I have met some of the most important people in my life and had some of the most memorable moments in my life. I have been given the honour of the role of Charity Manager and taken it with pride and gratitude and will strive to do even more.

This anniversary, as with all of them, I say thank you to my mum. Everything I do for the charity is in your memory and the memory of Oscar, Ian, Milo and all those we have lost or who are suffering from brain tumours. And we will make things better, just like you always did for so many, Mum xxx

Pic: Patricia with both of her young grandchildren, a year before diagnosis

Pic: Jack attends to his Grandma post-surgery.