Haywards Heath firefighter battling cancer ‘overwhelmed’ by support

A Haywards Heath firefighter who has been told his cancer is not curable has been left ‘overwhelmed’ by support from his colleagues and the community.

Mark Butler, 55, who has been a firefighter in Mid Sussex for nearly 37 years, was tragically told just before Christmas that his cancer had come back after being in remission and was no longer curable.

Since finding out, his colleagues at Haywards Heath Fire Station have rallied to raise money so Mark and his family can have a well-deserved break away.

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Mark Butler (middle) and his colleagues at Haywards Heath Fire Station. Photo by Eddie Howland

On January 27, firefighters and fire control staff took to shaving their heads and waxing their legs at a ‘Bald4Butler’ event at the fire station in Mill Green Road.

The crew, who set up a JustGiving page for the event, aimed to raise £500, however the amount now stands at more than £7,000.

Mark, crew manager at the station, said: “I am very humbled and overwhelmed. It was a very emotional day for me as my whole family were there and it was also my brother’s birthday, but the atmosphere was brilliant.

“The guys at the fire station are magnificent, you couldn’t ask for more. I am trying to stay positive, I have got a good network of people around me, which makes a big difference.”

Mark Butler. Photo by Eddie Howland

Mark has adult acute myeloid leukemia (AML) – a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. He has been told he may only have three months to live, but this is the worst case scenario, he said.

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He said he is determined to make two important goals this year – the 21st birthday of his son Adam, who is also a firefighter, and his wedding anniversary.

Gavin Twinn getting the chop. Photo by Eddie Howland

“My work and my family’s way is not what if, it is we have got to try everything that is offered,” said Mark.

“But if the inevitable happens, there will be some money for my family. It has taken a toll on family and this is to take the stress away – it is not all about me.”

Mark paid thanks to hospital staff at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton. He said: “Their dedication towards me and my family has made it easier, they are always on hand to help 24/7. I couldn’t fault the NHS one bit.”

Shaves at the fundraising event were carried out by Mark’s daughter Megan, 23, Lisa Comber from Perfect 10 Beauty in Burgess Hill, and Danielle Kelly-Marques from Identity in Hassocks.

Chris Dye having his legs waxed. Photo by Eddie Howland

A spokesman for Haywards Heath Fire Station said: “As a crew we wanted to do something as a gesture to Mark and his family for all the kind things they have done for us.

“Mark is a well known figure in the local community of Mid Sussex, through his Trimark Driving School and an amazing 37 years serving as a on-call firefighter in Mid Sussex which he will reach next month.

“We also wanted to raise some money for them to all take a holiday and assist them with anything they may need in the difficult time they’re facing.

“After a brief conversation at a retirement function the idea and name Bald4Butler was founded.

“Further events by the crew are in the pipeline and will be announced. These will be for the family and their chosen charities that have been supporting them so watch this space.”