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Tuesday, 09 August 2022
STAFF at a Henley tool hire firm are raising money for a cancer charity after their boss was diagnosed with the disease.
Simon Gale, who runs Southern Plant at Centenary Business Park, has been undergoing treatment since being told he had bile duct cancer in December 2015.
Now a “magnificent seven” employees are to take on the Tough Mudder challenge at the Culden Faw Estate in Hambleden on May 6.
The team will include Mr Gale’s two sons, Murray, 26, and Robson, 21, his nephew Lee Jackson and his daughter Phoebe’s fiancé Chris Young. The rest of the team comprises Aaron Dunningham, Patryk Stachurski and Lukasz Turlej.
Mr Gale, 56, and his family have already raised £5,288.74 for Macmillan Cancer Support with events and challenges over the last six months.
He said: “They aren’t a research charity but they do so much work to help those who care for people and don’t know where to go.
“They have an amazing online community. I would invite people to join because they may help support someone who does not know what to do and is at their wits’ end. There is always someone there to support them.”
Mr Gale was diagnosed with a tumour in his bile duct, also known as cholangiocarcinoma, after feeling unwell.
He and his wife Susan broke the news to their family three days later.
Mr Gale had surgery to remove the growth at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead in January last year.
He said: “When they operated they found it had spread to my liver, so they closed me up and decided to give me palliative care.
“It was a shock because it was going to be a simple tumour they were going to take out but it did not work out that way.”
Oncologist Professor Justin Stebbing and surgeon Dr Giuseppe Fusai then drew up an action plan to cure him.
Mr Gale said: “They were taking DNA samples from the tumour and looking at everything. They gave me some chemotherapy and I had access to emotional and physical support.”
He had a successful 10-hour operation in June last year where the surgeon had planned to remove a third of his liver.
Mr Gale said: “When Dr Fusai took my liver out he showed it to his team because it had no more cancer. He was going to remove a third of it but didn’t need to. He just popped it back in.”
He spent 11 days in intensive care recovering but then his test results showed more problems.
Mr Gale said: “There were signs of some cancer in the peritoneum, a thin layer of tissue in the abdomen. It’s treatable but not curable, so that’s where I am right now.”
Since the second operation he has had another course of chemotherapy, which finishes at the end of this month. Then he will be given drugs to try to stabilise the cancer.
Mr Gale was working right up until his diagnosis but since then his sons have stepped up.
Murray has taken on more work while also completing his training to be a tailor in London. Robson, who has worked for the company for six years, is completing his training as a plant engineer.
Mrs Gale, 51, helped run the company but now spends most of her time looking after her husband.
She said: “I’d never have expected this to happen to someone like Simon. He was always looking after everyone and was full of life and energy. It was a real shock.
“People at work have been so wonderful and supportive. They offered to help us when we moved house and took Simon to London for treatment.
“They have got on and run the business without Simon. The boys have both been amazing. It’s almost like I have seen them become men overnight.”
The business has been in Henley since 1989 after moving from High Wycombe.
Originally there were only a handful of staff but that number has grown to about 25, most of whom live in the area.
The company is a long-term sponsor of Henley in Bloom and has raised money for various charities, including Sue Ryder.
Mr Gale, who now lives in Marlow, said: “It has grown from a small tool hire firm for someone doing DIY to helping small builders with mixers and diggers.
“We work with contractors now and some of the major customers have 10 forklifts on hire from us.
“Eighty per cent of our work is for companies in Henley and the surrounding villages. It’s good that the money generated by a local business is given back and shared in the community.
“If everyone had that little bit of support it would just make the world go round a bit more nicely.”
Murray was the first member of the family to contribute to the fund-raising effort when he completed the AJ Bell London Triathlon in June and raised £1,600.
Then in August he joined his 23-year-old sister Niamh, who is currently working in Canada, and her friends Holly Matthews and Rebecca Flook to complete Tough Mudder in Cirencester and raise another £500. In November Phoebe, 28, and Mr Young ran an online raffle to win a range of their Leo the Lion clothing range, which is named after their 10-month- old son.
“People just bought as many tickets as they wanted and then we put the names in a hat and drew a winner,” she said.
“I’m not going to be doing Tough Mudder because I don’t particularly want to but I was able to fund-raise in a way that fit around my family and company.
“My dad is the pillar of our family. When I found out I was scared because he looks after everybody else. It made us all realise that we have to look after him and mum now.”
Mr and Mrs Gale even did some fund-raising of their own in October when they sold their utensils and equipment from the Heart IQ Kitchen, a food experiences company that they ran from their former home in Holmer Green in Buckinghamshire. This raised almost £2,800.
Mr Gale also hopes to organise a charity walk along St Francis Way from Florence to Assisi, just outside Rome.
To donate, visit visit www.justgiving.com/fund
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