Real lives: Eric lands OBE for 24/7 devotion to cancer fight

Eric Low

Eric Low

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Eric Low, chief executive of a charity dedicated to a rare form of cancer, is celebrating after being awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Eric Low was born at Edinburgh’s Eastern General Hospital in 1971, the third child of four born to Jack and Kate Low; he has two older brothers, Jack and Kirk, and a younger sister called Katie.

He grew up in the East Lothian village of Dirleton, attending the local primary school, then moved on to North Berwick High where he developed a keen interest in sport and worked hard to gain academic qualifications.

“I wouldn’t say I excelled, but I did well in my exams by working hard,” he said. “I was particularly interested in modern studies and economics rather than science.”

While at high school he continued to play for Hutcheson Vale football club, a team he had joined in primary school and represented his school at rugby. After leaving school with ten O Grades and six Highers, one of which was in biology, Eric enrolled at Edinburgh’s Napier University to study business and travel. He decided not to stay to complete his honours year and instead went travelling around the world.

A short stint in Thailand – which he describes as being more of a holiday – was followed by a year-long stay in Australia.

On his return journey to the UK he stopped off in Los Angeles and began volunteering with the International Myeloma Foundation, a charity set up by his uncle, a doctor specialising in cancer of the blood. Back in Britain, he decided to set up a UK arm of the charity, as there was no equivalent organisation in this country. With the help of his uncle, the International Myeloma Foundation UK was set up in 1997, when Eric was just 24. The charity changed its name to Myeloma UK in 2006.

Eric met his partner, Linda Wood, around ten years ago, while recovering from a sports injury. A friend suggested he train with the Haddington ladies hockey team, of which Linda was a member, to regain his strength. The pair now have two children together, Maya, six, and one-year-old Aaron.

Apart from a few student jobs, Eric has devoted his life to running Myeloma UK and raising awareness of the disease. The cancer arises from plasma cells which are found in the bone marrow, which produce an antibody which leaves sufferers unable to fight off infection. “We fund about £1.5 million of research every year and we do a lot of campaign and policy work to make sure that patients can access the latest treatments,” said Eric. “I’ve literally dedicated my working life to Myeloma. It’s a 24/7 life, it’s more of a vocation than a job.”

Eric had to keep news of his award secret for a month after receiving the letter, which arrived out of the blue.

“It came as a bit of a surprise,” he said. “The Myeloma community was keen that I was recognised.”