When head teacher Dave Markham was diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer in 2010, his life was changed forever. But after coming to terms with the initial shock, he vowed to approach the challenge with the same positive attitude he has exerted throughout his life.
Two years ago, after his diagnosis, the dad-of-three from Stannington teamed up with his friend, Mike Lydiat, and started performing a series of musical concerts throughout Sheffield to raise money for Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity.
The duo, who have been friends for over 20 years, play to a diverse range of audiences and have raised an outstanding £10,075 for the Cancer Charity in just two years .
Former marathon and fell runner Dave (58) said: “It took me a long time to get my head around being diagnosed with cancer. I had always led an active lifestyle, so naturally I did wonder, ‘why me?’
“My diagnosis and subsequent treatment meant that I was no longer able to continue with my life-long career as a head teacher and therefore I found myself searching for something else to focus on.
“Through music I found a real purpose again, and knowing that our work could directly benefit the lives of others living with cancer, it spurred us on to do more and more.
“We never expected to raise such a large amount of money from what started out as a hobby, but this has been a firm motivator for us to continue supporting this fantastic cause.”
After being diagnosed at The Hallamshire Hospital, Dave had a radical prostatectomy – an operation to remove the prostate gland – in the hope that the cancer would be cleared from his body. However, soon after his surgery doctors discovered the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes outside the prostate.
Dave then underwent a course of radiotherapy at Weston Park Hospital in an attempt to stop the cancer from spreading further. He now attends the hospital every three months for injections to control the cancer, as well as taking daily drugs to keep symptoms at bay.
The musical comrades, suitably calling themselves Toffee Music – ‘Two Old Fellas For Evening Entertainment’ – have now built up an established fan base, performing to a range of regular and new audiences on a weekly basis.
Mike Lydiat, also a former head teacher, plays an integral part in the act and is keen to expand their repertoire whilst raising even more funds for the charity.
He said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have raised over £10,000 for the Cancer Charity, which will ultimately go towards improving the standards of care for patients, like Dave.
“Weston Park Hospital is a real beacon for the area and we simply cannot do enough to thank them for the gold-standard services they provide.
“We are a versatile duo who can play anything from nursery rhymes to vaudeville, and with a variety of musical instruments, we can easily tailor our performances to individual requirements.”
Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity is the only dedicated charity for the hospital and exists to support world-class cancer research and to improve the treatment and care for people living with cancer.
The charity needs to raise over £2 million this year to fund a wide range of projects that will keep Weston Park Hospital at the forefront of cancer treatment.
Sarah Cross, charity fundraiser, said: “Dave and Mike are truly inspirational and should be extremely proud of what they have achieved in such a short period of time.
“Their performances have not only been enjoyed by their audiences, but they have also helped Dave stay positive throughout his treatment.
“The money raised will make a huge difference to the lives of cancer patients in this region.”
As well as writing and performing their own songs, Dave and Mike have established good working relationships with local schools, where they regularly perform educational shows.
Having recently released their latest CD, with help from Gadgetboy (Gadgetb) Productions, they are increasingly overwhelmed by the support received from companies and venues across the city.
In particular, The Shakespeare on Gibraltar Street has hosted Toffee Music’s regular ‘second Monday of the month’ evening of Music Hall, Vaudeville and Standards of Yesteryear since they started in Jan 2012. And Andy Plummer’s pub, The Huntsman at Thurlstone, has also been very supportive.
Throughout 2014, the Cancer Charity is marking its 20th anniversary by funding a wide variety of projects for the hospital, including the completion of the new Clinical Research Unit and the Day Case refurbishment.
To find out more about Toffee Music and to keep up to date with their latest performances or book them for your event, visit www.toffeemusic.co.uk.
To find out more about how you can support the Cancer Charity visit www.wphcancercharity.org.uk or call the charity office on 0114 226 5370.