Monday, 3 July 2017

I have never met someone who was as brave, and positive, and inspiring as Chris Hartley - Kirstie Binns

I have never met someone who was as brave, and positive, and inspiring as Chris Hartley

Kirstie and Chris
It's hard to explain the bond created when you meet a group of random strangers and decide to camp with them at a festival... and then continue that tradition every year after that. Each year the bond is stronger and the friendship grows... It's a beautiful thing really, to go from strangers to basically family, and the good times and memories will stay with you forever.

Unfortunately not every story can be smooth sailing...

This story is about a boy named Chris Hartley.

Chris joined our Download Festival family four years ago in June 2013, and although only meeting us for the first time, within a couple of hours he was one of us, and that weekend was one of our best. 

In  April  2014 Chris was diagnosed with osteosarcoma bone cancer, and started his treatment on 16th June. This was the week after Download 2014… Chris came to the Download festival and sang louder than ever before. We all made sure Chris had the best week to get him through his treatment.

Chris had surgery in September 2014 to remove a tumour from his humorous bone, and was fitted with a titanium replacement. Then he underwent a gruelling 20 weeks of chemotherapy which included being in hospital over the Christmas and New Year break.

Chris finished his chemotherapy at the beginning of February and was looking forward to finally getting his life back! Unfortunately an MRI scan at the end of February showed that there was a suspicious lesion in the soft tissue of the same arm as before. A biopsy confirmed the worst. Chris then had further surgery to remove this new tumour.

Finally thinking that our friend had won his battle, we started getting ready for Download 2015! Everyone was ecstatic that Chris would be able to attend in good health, and there was excitement in every text message sent.

Unfortunately with only two weeks to go we received another heart-breaking message from Chris. Once again the cancer was back in his arm. This time the doctor decided the best course of action was amputation of his right arm and shoulder blade.

Chris was given the option of the Tuesday before Download festival, or the Tuesday after... Being a rock 'n' roll hero, Chris came to Download and we partied harder than ever, and we really did have the best weekend of our lives, all of us together as one big family.

The surgery went well, and Chris was incredible throughout it all. He soon adapted to life without his arm, even smashing it on his videogames by using his chin! The support from his amazing family, his mum Sue, dad John, and sister Amy, and his devoted girlfriend, Hilary, made sure Chris kept a smile on his face.

In August 2015 we received yet another blow. With only two months since his last surgery, Chris was told his cancer had resurfaced underneath the scar from his previous surgery, in the soft tissue in his chest wall. A CT scan then revealed that the cancer had spread to his lungs. This time the doctor heartbreakingly informed Chris that it was a matter of slowing the cancer down, rather than curing it.
The decision was made that Chris’s treatment would continue, but this time at The Christie in Manchester. Chris was due to start a new course of chemotherapy on 21st September.

On Saturday 12th September, whilst on holiday, Chris’s right lung collapsed. Once home, Chris was taken to The Christie where he had a CT scan. This revealed an estimated 6 litres of fluid sat on his lung in his chest, which they started to drain, and left Chris with one working lung. On Monday 21st September Chris had to have a drain fitted for his left lung, as that had also started to fill with fluid.

On Wednesday 23rd September a few of us from his Download festival family went to The Christie to visit Chris. There was an arts and craft room led by a lovely woman. We got Chris out of his room and we all spent a few hours laughing, and joking and cutting and sticking. Unfortunately that evening Chris’s right lung collapsed again, and due to problems with his breathing, the decision was made to move him to the critical care unit.

On Saturday morning Chris was taken for keyhole surgery to try and relieve some of the pressure on his lungs. Once in surgery what was presumed to be fluid causing the difficulties for Chris, turned out to be a tumour. Chris was kept sedated and put on a ventilator to assist him with his breathing. Due to the discovery in surgery, and the extent of the tumours, Chris’s family were notified that he would not likely come round.

That night Chris’s mum Sue rang us, to tell us to all to get to The Christie, and spend some time saying what we wanted to say to Chris. Our Download family live all over the country… London, Carlisle, Northamptonshire, Manchester, Selby, Saltburn… but we all got in our cars and got to The Christie.

On Monday 28th September Chris passed away peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by his family and all his closest friends, listening to his rock playlist. We all got to spend time with Chris, and I cannot begin to explain our gratitude to his family for letting us be a part of it. They are our family as well now. Also a big thank you to the staff of The Christie for letting us be there all day, and explaining everything to us, we wouldn’t trade that day in for anything in the world.

Chris was an extremely intelligent, caring, funny, music loving rock n roll legend, and I am lucky to have amazing memories and the privilege of calling him one of my friends. I cannot put into words how amazing Chris was, especially how he dealt with everything… with a smile on his face. Even through all of his treatment he still managed to get a first class honours degree in Chemistry. All of us would say the same, we have never met someone who was as brave, and positive, and inspiring as Chris Hartley.

A person like Chris is not the kind of person you forget. The level of care and the efforts of the staff at The Christie are also not something you forget. Along with Chris’s family and the Download group I decided that his legacy must live on. The best way to remember Chris, and to say thank you to The Christie, was to start fundraising.

I started to email The Christie, everyone I spoke to was incredibly helpful, and there was no end of support for me. Chris’s mum Sue was also in contact with staff at The Christie, and they passed on information about a research project into osteosarcoma, which meant that the money we raised could go to that research through The Christie.

So first we planned an event, a Halloween party called creepy carnage. I decided to shave my head. We organised a venue, with live bands, a raffle, an auction and a buffet for over 100 people. Chris’s mum Sue shaved my head in Chris’s memory. The whole day was a success, I ended up bald, and we raised £5,535, with £2,990 of that going to The Christie.

This was the first of many fundraisers to come. Sue has held cake sales, and tombola’s, and has raffled off football tickets.

Sue also had T-shirts made with the details of how to text our JustGiving page, we’ve worn them to gigs and festivals and gained quite a few donations through them. We have worn them to all the gigs Chris had tickets for, so his smiling face was there with us at every time. Most importantly we wore them to Download festival 2016.

On the Sunday of that weekend, a band called Shinedown played and we as a family scattered his ashes at our meeting point at the main stage whilst they played a song two of us had performed at his funeral. We raised over £200 from the T-shirts alone that weekend, telling everyone who asked Chris’s story.

Later in the year we all signed up to do the Manchester half marathon. To look at us all you would laugh at the idea we could do a half marathon but nevertheless 17 of us signed up. We all trained hard and set up a JustGiving team page so all our efforts could be combined. Despite ending up stiff and sore from the run, all 17 of us crossed the finish line and we’ve raised over £6,300. Our total fundraising efforts are now over £15,500!

We now plan that every year there will be at least one big event, and as many little fundraising activities as we can manage. Chris’s legacy will live on, and we will keep on fundraising for The Christie. I know that there is nothing we can do that will bring Chris back, but knowing he’s laughing at us all from up there, with a smile on his face makes it feel like is he is with us, fundraising and still fighting cancer with us every step of the way.

To donate to The Christie please visit

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