Empty Chairs - Roy Magee's Story

Currently, thanks to advances in research and treatments, three out of four people diagnosed with blood cancer in Northern survive. But one doesn’t. 

Roy Magee, from East Belfast, is one of those people. He lost his battle with blood cancer in 2005, 12 years ago. 

Roy was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma when he was 44. He had been happily married for 23 years, with a teenage daughter, Nadia. 

Roy enjoyed many years working in the structural steel industry but his real passion was football. He was a youth coach at Glentoran Football Club and lived and breathed the sport, often spending weeknights and weekends training youngsters or supporting matches. It was a big part of his life. 

Nadia remembers growing up pitch side. She said: “Dad loved working with the youth teams, and I don’t know anyone who didn’t like him there. He was fun-loving, down to earth, the real joker. He was just someone who was lovely to be around.”

Nadia also recalls how Roy valued life experiences rather than material things. “Family holidays were a big thing. My mum used to joke about buying a new sofa, and Dad would yell, ‘No way! We’re going on holiday!’”

When Roy began to feel discomfort in his back in 2003, he immediately sought medical help. But pinpointing the problem was difficult and the family waited months before they found out what was wrong. The result was unexpected – and shocking - Roy had Multiple Myeloma, a cancer which affects the plasma cells inside the bone marrow. 

Nadia said: “It was a shock. You never expect it to be so serious. But, as with anyone who receives that diagnosis, you have to find the fight within you and Dad did. ‘Tear on – do what you need to do’, he told the doctors. He operated on a need-to-know basis and that was how he coped.”

Roy fought blood cancer for 1 and half years. A glimpse of hope came in the form of emerging new treatments, but it was unfortunately too late and not enough. Roy died in 2005. 

Nadia said, “Since Dad passed away, the progression of research has been phenomenal. We have amazing, fast-growing survival rates and there is more medical hope now for families – the same kind of hope we didn’t have even just ten years ago. 

“I encourage everyone to invest in research. We need to support the clinical trials which develop new treatments. We need to help save more lives.”

Three out of four people now survive blood cancer. But for that one in four, there’s still a lot to do. Funds raised by Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI pay for the pioneering work of a team of researchers in Belfast. Blood cancer treatment is their only focus.

We’d love it if you shared Roy’s story, spread the word and help support our work. Together, we can help reduce the number of empty chairs created by blood cancer.

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