Northern Ireland news

Retired doctor with incurable cancer to walk the Camino in his driveway for charity

Retired GP Martin McMullan who will walk 120km in five days up and down his driveway on a virtual trail of the Camino pilgrimage in the lead-up to his 58th birthday. Picture by Mal McCann.

A RETIRED GP with incurable cancer who is living in his garden `shed' to shield from his own family during the pandemic will walk the famous Camino pilgrimage in his driveway before his birthday next week.

Martin McMullan, a well-known family doctor at surgeries in west and north Belfast, doesn't expect to rejoin his wife and children inside their Lisburn home until September due to his vulnerability to the deadly Covid-19 virus.

"I got blood cancer, myeloma in 2012, when I was just past my 50th birthday. It's incurable cancer, it will eventually kill me because it's in the bone marrow and you can't cut it out.

"I am highly vulnerable and on the list to self isolate and shelter from my own family. My wife and three of my children are in the house and I'm living on my own in the annexe out the back. I joke I'm living in the shed, but it's very comfortable. I'm very fortunate to have this here over the garage."

Following treatment, Dr McMullan was unable to return to his practices on the Glen Road and at Carrick Hill due to his extreme vulnerability to infection.

The father-of-five has thrown himself into work for St Patrick's GAC in Lisburn where he is `healthy club' officer and manager of the ladies team and is a member of St John's GAC in west Belfast.

A member of St John's Rambling Retirees Walking Club, he has been part of a group which is walking the French Camino, with the next pilgrimage trip due to take place next year.

Plans to walk the so-called Irish Camino around the Boyne Valley this summer have been disrupted by coronavirus restrictions, but one night, while drinking a glass of Spanish Rjoja wine he decided to complete the next stage of the Camino Francais in his driveway.

"It was a throwaway comment during a Zoom call to my siblings, when I said `Instead of getting me a present for my birthday, I might do the next stage of the Camino on my driveway and you can sponsor me."

He had been walking laps of his driveway and garden for exercise and tried to work out how long it would take him and count back from his birthday on May 4 for a start date.

"I measured it walking up and down from the garage to the gates and back again and five times is a mile. I'm doing the stage from Logrono to Burgos and plan to do 30km a day.

"I'm going to do it properly and only stop when I would have reached a village if I was doing the real thing and would be able to take a rest in a cafe and have some coffee and tapas.

"I've got my guide book to keep track of where I'm going and what churches I would be passing on the route.

"I'll try to get some Spanish food, but it all depends what I can get and what comes in the Tesco order."

He intends to give updates on his fundraising page which has already surpassed his modest target of £500 to attract almost £4,000.

"I am donating all the money to Trocaire because they would have been one of the charities hardest hit by this pandemic because it closed Easter which is their big fundraising time.

"I will be matching the first £100 of donations myself as obviously I am saving money on airfares and accommodation."

He sets of from `Logrono' on Thursday April 30 and will arrive at `Burgos' the following Tuesday - all without leaving his own driveway.

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