Even after he was given just weeks left to live, Marlon remained positive he could beat cancer
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A 'kind and doting' father diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer died before he could make one final trip home to see his family. Marlon Balba passed away in August at the age of 43, leaving behind his partner of 13 years and their 12-year-old daughter.
The hotel worker was diagnosed with angiosarcoma last September after discovering a painful lump on his shoulder blade. After undergoing chemotherapy and surgery, Marlon was told he was cancer free – however within weeks, the lump had returned and further treatment failed to stop the fast-growing cancer from spreading to his lungs.
The dad-of-one was given weeks to live and died on August 22, less than a year after his initial diagnosis. His cousin Claire Chan, from Harborne, is now fundraising towards Marlon's funeral costs and to support his daughter Katie's future.
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Marlon had lived in the UK for over ten years after moving to London from Batangas in the Philippines, but remained active in the Filipino community, raising funds for various charities by organising dinner and dance events. He and partner Jo also ran a small business together, Katie's Ice Cream, which was named after their daughter.
Marlon had hoped to return to the Philippines one last time to visit his family before he died, but his health declined too quickly. Instead, an emergency visa was granted for his mum and sister to fly to England to visit him and Marlon passed away just hours after they arrived at his bedside.
"It happened very quickly," said Claire. "He noticed a lump on his shoulder blade and it quickly grew and became quite painful. He quickly visited his GP and was referred for an urgent scan.
"He already had that feeling that it was serious but he didn't want to worry anyone. I think he was expecting bad news but it still came as a real shock to us all as a family.
"He had chemotherapy radiation to shrink the tumour for six weeks then surgery, and after that he was told he was cancer free. Everyone was overjoyed, we thought that was the end of that.
"But within weeks, he started getting pain in that area again and another lump came up. At first we thought maybe it was scar tissue but the scan confirmed the cancer had unfortunately come back.
"He started again on chemotherapy but the cancer was just too aggressive and couldn't keep up. The lump was still getting bigger and he also started feeling really breathless. They scanned him and realised the cancer had already spread to one of his lungs.
"When they stopped the chemo, the prognosis was that he had a matter of weeks. It was a very anxious time but he still believed he could beat it. We really admired his positivity.
"When he was told he had weeks to live, he would say 'well there are 52 weeks in a year' – he always looked on the brighter side of things and never accepted defeat."
Claire added: "He was looking forward to going back to the Philippines – he last went two years ago for the first time in several years but financially, he just wasn't able to go very often. When he got his diagnosis, he really wanted to go back, but by that stage, he was on oxygen and had just recently started chemotherapy, so his doctors were concerned how he would cope without treatment.
"Some people might say he hung on to feel the presence of his mum and sister before he passed on. They spent his last day telling him how much they loved him."
Paying tribute to her cousin, Claire, 38, said: "He was fun, he was always playing with the children in the family, and he loved dancing. He was a lot of fun to be around. He was really kind and always thinking of other people.
"He was also really funny and anyone who met him would have laughed in his company. He was always at the centre of any party.
"We're a big extended family but you would always know that where Marlon was, the fun was. He was just an all round good guy and a doting father to his daughter."
Marlon's family are hoping to raise at least £5,000 towards his funeral costs and to go towards his daughter's higher education fund. To donate, visit the Go Fund Me page here.