As Freemasons we are naturally charitable people and our gifts take many different guises. We are sure that on many occasions you will have heard someone say charity begins at home and in the case of the family of 58 year old W. Bro. David Cantlon, the DC of Gillingham’s St. Andrew’s Mark Lodge No. 237 that is certainly true, many times over.
In February 2009 at the age of only 47, David was diagnosed with kidney failure which was “a shock diagnosis, that came from nowhere”. After being admitted to intensive care he was put on dialysis for up to 9 hours a night. David was told by the medical team that his only real chance of recovery was to receive a transplant from a living donor, at which point his 3 brothers offered themselves for testing. Even though he wasn’t exact match, his brother Steven proved to be the best option and in 2012 they simultaneously went under the surgeon’s knife. Steven’s recovery was quick and David initially responded well, but after 6 months he contracted a virus which reduced his kidney function from 49% to 8% putting him back on both dialysis, (up to 4 hours a day, 3 times a week, 30 miles away in Canterbury) and the kidney transplant waiting list.

During this challenging time for the family, David’s daughter Simone had met and become engaged to Tom and a date was set for him to walk her down the aisle in July 2016. In the May of that same year, and after 4 years of treatment, David started having dialysis at home – his wife had received specialist training – and everyone in the family was counting down to Simone and Tom’s big day. But with just 5 weeks to go, David was taken ill with breathing difficulties and was blue-lighted to hospital by ambulance, where Doctors suspected that he had developed a potentially fatal heart condition exacerbated by his kidney failure.

As Simone and Tom’s Wedding Day approached everyone was worried that David wouldn’t be part of the special day and that he wouldn’t be there by Simone’s side to walk her down the aisle. He promised that he would be there and amazingly on 23rd July he was just well enough allowed home from hospital for 24 hours. David was obviously weak and had lost a lot weight meaning that his suit no longer fitted properly, (the reverse of the usual Masonic problem!), but everyone in the family, especially Simone, was delighted that he could be there and part of this happy family occasion to give her away.

The following day it was Simone herself who drove her father back to hospital, knowing that even though he had pulled out all of the stops to make it through her special day his condition was more serious than ever and that he was in desperate need of another kidney transplant. She knew that she had to put herself forward for compatibility tests which showed that she was an exact match.

18 months later Simone underwent a 9 hour operation to have one of her kidneys removed. Amazingly, she says that she wasn’t nervous, but simply hoped that she would “finally get her dad back”. Doctors immediately transplanted Simone’s kidney into David and just 6 days later she was allowed home. The procedure was a success and 6 months later David’s kidney function had risen to 62% – the highest it had been for years. Although he will have to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life, he has been discharged from hospital and has his independence back with thanks to a wonderful medical team and charity truly beginning at home.

David has always been very active in the Province, as can be seen below. Let us hope and pray that his health remains good enough for him to continue to enjoy his Masonry in the future as much as he has in the past.

In the Mark Degree David was Advanced in St. Andrew’s Mark Lodge No. 237 in 2001, becoming Master in 2009; he is currently the Director of Ceremonies. He joined United Service Mark Lodge No. 69 in 2013 and Kent Installed Mark Master’s Lodge No. 999 in 2014. He was appointed Provincial Grand Inner Guard in 2012, serving for 2 years being promoted to Provincial Grand Senior Deacon in 2018.

In the Degree of Royal Ark Mariner he was Elevated in St. Peter’s R.A.M. Lodge No. 842 in 2009, becoming Commander in 2016, serving 2 years in office. David is DC here too, but was Charity Steward for many years. David joined Kent Installed Commanders’ Lodge No. 999 in 2015 and became a joining member of United Service R.A.M. Lodge No. 69 in 2018.

He is a terrific supporter of the Province volunteering for Provincial delegations as well as being the 2020 Festival Area Fundraising Manager for Medway.