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I'm climbing a mountain with the man who saved my life

21st Dec 2020

Brett was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in 2014. There were some very dark moments, but six years later, he's reaching new heights.

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Brett (left) and his Dad climbing in Scotland

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“At times, we weren't sure if I would be around for the future.”

Initial results from my treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia looked positive. However, in 2015, I relapsed and had to undergo further chemotherapy. There were some very dark moments, but 20 October 2015 marked a turning point.

This is the day I had my stem-cell transplant.

Since then, things have gone well for me, and although it has been a bumpy road at times, I am thankful for where I am today. I know my family are also incredibly pleased to still have their son, husband and dad here with them. Now, we are all able to enjoy a ‘normal’ life.

All of this is thanks to my stem cell donor, David, who I wanted to thank. Initially, I was only able to do this by sending an anonymous card, but eventually in 2018, we were able to get each other’s contact details. I learned that David is a firefighter, based in Scotland, and that he had done a lot to support Anthony Nolan. This was partly in honour of his friend who passed away from leukaemia.

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Brett receiving his stem cell transplant

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“What do you say to the man who saved your life?”

In Spring 2018, my whole family, including my dad, made the nearly 500-mile journey up to Scotland to meet David.

Our families spent a great deal of time together. We both have young children and love the outdoors. We were able to talk at a local school near David and encouraged more people to join the stem cell register. Even the weather was superb, with glorious sun – we were lying on the beach in Scotland in May!

Since then I have met up with David twice more in Scotland – and he has in the meantime run the London Marathon for Anthony Nolan, what an amazing guy!

Last year, he mentioned that he planned to go up Kilimanjaro with some friends for blood cancer charities. I love hiking, having spent my childhood living in a village on Dartmoor, and was only too pleased to join them.

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Brett and his family meet his stem cell donor, David

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This was scheduled for October 2020, with us to summit on the 5th anniversary of my transplant. Due to covid-19, it has been pushed back to October 2021. However, our family were still able to drive up to Scotland in October to meet David and his family. Some of us climbed 1,100m up a Munro (a hill over 3,000ft!) – not quite Kili, but it’s still a great thing to have been able to do.

It was a good challenge. We climbed from near sea-level to the summit, in driving wind and rain and low temperatures. It felt great to be fit enough to do, and I had a proper ‘Dad’ moment motivating our kids up and safely back down again.

So, what’s next?

Well, Kilimanjaro, with David, of course! I am still conscious of how lucky I am.

There are many people that do not survive, and a proportion of those who do, suffer effects that compromise their quality of life.

I feel I owe it to those people – to do what I can, and get out there.

I’m raising money for Blood Cancer UK, and David will be fundraising for Anthony Nolan. We will be joined by another great group of people who will also be raising money for these charities, for similar reasons.

As covid-19 means it isn’t safe for me to go to the gym and train, I enjoy going for regular walks with my youngest son instead. Now, I work out at home with kettle bells, a cross-trainer, and with some Joe Wicks for good measure!

Both charities have been hit hard by the decline in fundraising because of the pandemic but have carried on with their lifesaving work. I plan to self-fund my trip, meaning that every pound that’s donated will go towards Blood Cancer UK.

It is a major challenge for me. While I am in good health now, as recently as 2016, walking even a short distance down the road was a significant effort due to the after-effects of my treatment.

If you’re interested but nervous about taking on a physical challenge…

Here’s my advice to you...

Choose something that will push you – it doesn’t have to be a mountain. One of the first challenges I did was Blood Cancer UK’s walk from Exeter to my hometown. This was around 13 miles, and only 11 months after my transplant. It was a massive effort at the time, I was exhausted afterwards, but it felt good to have completed, AND we raised over £1,600.

Now, I’m looking forward to my next challenge. If you can make a donation, it would be greatly appreciated by all of us who have been helped by Blood Cancer UK!

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