A father-of-two who survived invasive surgery for a rare tumour in his neck is to run the London Marathon with his feeding tube.
Gary Taylor, 46, from Halifax, West Yorkshire, hopes that his bid to tackle the 26.2 mile race will show other people you can live “a relatively normal life” despite needing to live with a feeding tube.
He said: “I want to do this to show people who are starting to tube feed that it isn’t the end of the world.
“You will sometimes feel down. You will sometimes feel afraid and you will come across hurdles that you need to work around, but you can do anything you used to do. I still work. I still play football and I’m running the London Marathon.”
The electrical engineer was diagnosed with a rare parapharyngeal schwannoma tumour in his neck in 2016.
It turned out to be benign but the invasive surgery he needed to deal with it meant that Mr Taylor will probably never eat a normal meal again.
Medics had at first hoped he would need to be tube fed for six weeks after his surgery but he “struggled” to cope and has had to use a low-profile balloon gastrostomy tube ever since.
Unlike other racers he will need his own expert supervision to try to finish the marathon which he can only attempt by carrying and changing a specialist backpack with a mixture of enteral nutrition, water and electrolytes.
This will be delivered via a specialist feeding pump to help him get the right balance of energy and nutrients during the marathon.
The equipment will need to be changed three times during the run and a volunteer support runner will be on hand to help with the equipment.
He is running for Pinnt, a charity support group for people receiving home artificial nutrition. There are around 50,000 people of all ages in the UK who use enteral feeding tubes to help with the dietary management of their medical condition or disease.
Losing more than five stone after the surgery meant he had to work hard to regain his strength and adjust to his new life.
Mr Taylor said: “It took some time to emotionally adjust. I didn’t want to leave hospital, I had panic attacks to begin with and dinner times were tough, I used to grind my teeth as if I was chewing too.
“Now I’m becoming less self-conscious about my condition and I sit with my family and join in with the meal time conversations.
“It’s the simple things like having a cup of coffee that you can take for granted but I focus on my family, keeping fit and feeling strong now”.
Family, friends and a Nutricia Homeward nurse specialist are among those who have helped him to get race ready.
He said: “I know I can turn to them for anything and this has been integral to my recovery and training. The Nutricia Homeward enteral nurse and my hospital dietitian have even joined me on some of my runs and gone far beyond their ‘day jobs’ to help me realise my ambition and prove if I can do it, anyone can.”
Martine Hartley, Nutricia Homeward enteral nurse specialist, said: “It’s been inspirational watching Gary’s determination. I know it’s not been easy, but he’s completely dedicated.”