Northern Ireland news

Tim Page: Co Down man faced cancer five times but was 'champion for life in all its fullness'

Tim Page

Tim Page's courage and resilience in facing cancer five times made an indelible impression on everyone he met.

No matter what trials life threw at him, or how often he was forced to draw on his mental and physical reserves, he amazed people with his positivity and generosity of spirit.

"A champion for life in all its fullness," was one of the many tributes paid after his death.

"A remarkable man with an indomitable spirit" read another, and "a warrior full of grace".

However, to those who knew him best, Tim dealt with adversity in the same positive and determined way he approached every aspect of his life.

He had a "goodness that was infectious" - a natural honesty and sincerity which in turn brought out the best in those around him.

Even in his final months, as his battered immune system found it more difficult to fight off infections, he was still trying to encourage others, selfless and an inspiration to the end.

Born in Newtownards in 1963, but living all of his life in Holywood, Tim was the eldest of two children to Primrose and the late Wilbur Page.

He discovered the joy of computers when they first arrived in Sullivan Upper School, and he was 20 years old and enjoying a student placement with his future employer BT when he received his first diagnosis of blood cancer - in this case Hodgkin’s Lymphoma - at the same time as his own father was dying of cancer.

He underwent six months of treatment before returning to his studies, and was about to celebrate graduating with a first class honours in computer science when the disease returned.

More gruelling months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy followed before he was once again given the all-clear.

Tim would now enjoy two decades cancer-free, when he could devote his considerable energies to his career and family.

He met Ruth McDonagh from Coleraine on a blind date arranged by friends and they were married in 1994 and became a great team.

Tim and Ruth Page were married for 26 years

They were blessed with two sons, Chris and Downey, of whom Tim was immensely proud.

His work with BT, meanwhile, would take him to London, Ipswich and India, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

It was in 2008 that he started to feel unwell once again, leading to a third diagnosis of Lymphoma and a course of outpatient chemotherapy which appeared to be successful.

But in the summer of 2013, just as he and his family were making plans for a barbecue to mark five years clear of cancer, the disease returned more aggressively with tumours throughout his gut.

Once again Tim underwent courses of chemotherapy so that he could benefit from a stem cell transplant to reboot his faulty immune system.

He spent many months recovering in hospital and a year away from work.

Just before this transplant on Christmas Eve 2013, and given only a 50 per cent chance of survival, Tim found himself planning a 50th birthday party and funeral service at the same time.

Although weak, he enjoyed his birthday with a viewing of his favourite film, It’s a Wonderful Life, with many friends in a private cinema.

Tim had a mantra throughout life: “If there’s something to celebrate – celebrate!”

Tim and Ruth Page with their children Chris and Downey

He also surprised everyone by turning to running as a recovery aid - something he had never attempted before.

In 2016 he ran his first 5k parkrun at Belfast's Victoria Park, and an idea was hatched for the Tim Page - Fit for Life challenge to raise funding and awareness for the charity Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI, which was close to his heart.

This saw him complete all 22 parkruns across Northern Ireland over the next year, as well as sign up more than 100 stem cell donors and raise more than £15,000 for the charity.

Now back in work and enjoying a management position in BT, Tim's cancer was to return for a fifth and final time in May 2017.

This was his biggest challenge yet, requiring heavy-duty chemotherapy and a donor stem cell transplant in St James’s Hospital, Dublin.

Tim spent the last three years dealing with the aftermath after developing Graft versus Host Disease, which made him susceptible to infection and required multiple admissions into Belfast City Hospital.

Although forced to retire from work on medical grounds in December 2017, he was planning to become a coaching psychologist and surprised many by completing courses online as an inpatient in the Cancer Centre.

It summed up his desire to be of help and support to others no matter what personal difficulties he faced.

Tim found strength in his faith - he was an active member of the Methodist Church - and in fellowship as a member of Corrymeela community.

He said he was simply thankful to be alive and able to celebrate the many blessings and acts of kindness that surround us in daily life.

"You can maybe understand life looking backwards but you have to live it looking forwards," he said.

Timothy Page died peacefully in The Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital on June 28. He was 56.

He is survived and sadly missed by his wife of 26 years and their two children.

The family asked for any donations to be sent to Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, c/o S Clarke & Son Funeral Directors, 64 Newtownards Road, Bangor BT20 4DR.

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