My story began back in December 2014 when I received the most unexpected and unbelievable news that I had cancer and not just the first signs but a rare form of lymphoma which was at least stage 3.

What came next felt like a blur; tests, scans, more biopsies and before undergoing grueling chemotherapy in readiness to try and win the battle against my own body by having an autologus stem cell transplant. On 2nd July 2015 I was given a second chance at life, my transplant took place and I was on the road to recovery and a new future lay ahead.

Fast forward to 2017 and I thought I had beaten cancer! That was not to be the case, having picked up a virus in December 2018 my body showed signs that something was very wrong. After under-going tests, my worst fears were realised and I received the news that the cancer had returned and had once again found its way to my bone marrow as it had spread throughout my body.

This time I could not use my own stem cells and so my future lay in the hands of others, I needed a donor or I could not have the treatment I needed to try and save my life. This is where Anthony Nolan become a part of my story, they found a donor who was a suitable match for me, a 19 year old young German man and so hope was rekindled once more and my second transplant went ahead on 19th February 2020.

Having had my transplant this was just the start of what would prove to be a long and difficult road to recovery and a very different experience to my first transplant. For the next almost 12 months I was supported by Hearts Together and Birch Day Ward.

Once discharged from Derriford after my transplant, I went to stay at the Hearts Together Hospital Hotel to recuperate whilst being close enough to the hospital to attend clinics three times a week. The team here were amazing and nothing was too much trouble for them, despite the outbreak of the pandemic. When I needed them, they were there. Likewise, it was the team at Birch Day Ward who provided not only my medical treatment each week but who have been with me each step of the way, encouraging me and supporting me through the highs and the lows.

What I do know is that I need to make a difference for future cancer patients. Make their journey and that of their families an easier one. I can only “Thank you” to the institutions that saved me. But that seems inadequate. Therefore, I decided to set myself a challenge, to raise as much money for those Institutions. To raise their profile, and highlight to the general public exactly what they do and how reliant they are on charitable donations for them to conduct their business. By doing that, hopefully it will make it easier for future patients. I also hope it will Inspire others that you can achieve anything.

There are 3 Institutions I need to consider. Technically I am on my third life. The 19th February 2022 I start my third year following my transplant,therefore, a Triathlon seems the obvious challenge. (3 events) But, all good things come in threes, so it is no ordinary Triathlon. I will be doing three Triathlons. They will be conducted indoors but due to the nerve damage there is no run, instead we will row the final phase.

So, on the anniversary of my Transplant, I will swim 1500 metres, cycle 40 kilometres and row 10 kilometres. Then do the same for the next two days. In short, 3 Triathlons in 3 days.

The money I raise from my triathlon challenge will be split equally between the following charities:

- Anthony Nolan (charity no. 803716)
- Hearts Together (charity no. 1183181)
- Plymouth Hospitals Charity (Birch Day Ward) (charity no.1048679)

The money raised will help fund specialist support nurses at Anthony Nolan and to cover the costs of recruiting more stem cell donors. Your donations could pay for a night at Hearts Together for a patient, relative or carer or fund counselling support during difficult times. The money you give will support the specialist NHS teams to continue to save lives like mine. Whatever you give, it will enable all three of these amazing charities to help more people in need.

To read my story in full please click here.

Gary Bray