Published on: 12 June 2019

Eight-year-old Benjamin Miller has a very special reason for taking part in this year’s Mini Great North Run - he will be running in aid of Sunderland Royal Hospital’s head and neck cancer charitable fund to thank the team who helped to save his mum’s life.

Suzanne Miller, 49, is now well on the road to recovery after being diagnosed with tonsil and neck cancer last September following her discovery of a lump in her neck.

In October, she had a nine-hour operation at Sunderland Royal Hospital to remove the cancer. A six-week schedule of weekly chemotherapy and daily radiotherapy five days a week at The Northern Centre for Cancer Care, based at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, followed. Throughout her treatment, which left her unable to swallow and led to her losing her sense of taste, she had the support of Sunderland’s head and neck Macmillan clinical nurse specialists and the wider multi-disciplinary team.

Mrs Miller, who lives with husband Simon and their sons Benjamin and Archie, 17, in Chester-le-Street, said: “The weeks after the operation were horrendous and I spent most of January asleep or being sick. I had a nasal feeding tube from the middle of December and I lost three-and-a-half-stone but the tube was taken out a few weeks ago and life is gradually getting back to normal. When I was able to take Benjamin to school for the first time since September he had a smile on his face from ear to ear.”

She added: “I couldn’t have got through it all without the support of family, friends and neighbours, especially my husband, my mother and my sons. Our employers – Hermitage Academy where I work in administration and Essity manufacturing company where Simon is an operations manager – have also provided excellent support and understanding during this difficult time.”

Mrs Miller praised the NHS, and the head and neck team at Sunderland in particular, for the quality of care she received.

“I couldn’t have asked for better care. Everyone, including my surgeon Miss Helen Cocks, my Macmillan clinical nurse specialist Rachael Bannister-Young, my speech therapist and my dietitian, has been absolutely amazing. I feel very lucky because, although I still have a long way to go, I’m here and that’s the main thing.”

Benjamin, a pupil at Red Rose Primary School in Chester-le-Street, loves sports, including football, tennis and running, and has already built a considerable reputation as a junior golfer, so much so that he has been invited to play in the under 8s world championships in North Carolina in the USA in July.

He has wanted to do the Mini Great North for some time so he was overjoyed when his mum succeeded in obtaining a place for him this year. When it came to choosing a charity to run for, it was an easy decision. He said: “I wanted to run for Sunderland Hospital because I love my mum and they have made her better.”

Macmillan Head and Neck Clinical Nurse Specialist Rachael Bannister-Young said: “On behalf of the whole team, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Benjamin and wish him all the best for the Mini Great North Run. We get tremendous satisfaction when we are able to help patients and support their families at a very difficult time in their lives and it is always very touching and overwhelming when they want to show their appreciation in return. The money Benjamin raises will help us to improve the quality of life for people with head and neck cancer. It is one of the lesser-known cancers and Benjamin’s fundraising will also help to raise awareness around it.”

Benjamin has already raised about £800 in sponsorship for Sunderland Royal Hospital’s head and neck cancer charitable fund, which is part of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s charity. Anyone else wishing to sponsor him for the run in September should go to his mum’s crowdfunding page: