John said: “Initially, I thought I had a mild eczema on my ankle or a bruise from when I’d been training, but it just didn’t go away. Eventually my wife, Claire, got me to go and get it checked out. I was offered a biopsy which I thought would rule out anything untoward. I turned up for the results expecting to be told I had nothing to worry about but instead I was told I had cancer!”
Things got worse for John when a follow up scan revealed some of his lymph nodes (glands) were enlarged too. Then a further biopsy revealed he also had blood cancer too.
He said: “I was pretty devastated. Then they also explained the surgery I needed to tackle the cancer meant I might not be able to run again. I’ve always been really active. The fact that that could be taken away from me felt awful.
“We’d also begun some extensive building work on our house so my wife and daughter – who was only eight at the time – had to move into temporary accommodation over Christmas while I had my treatment. Then just as I was getting over my treatment lockdown started.”
The mark on John’s ankle which turned out to be sarcoma cancer
It was during lockdown John slowly began to build his strength back up, buying a second-hand bike. He got stronger and stronger and met others at a local support group, the Move Against Cancer Charity, who were also taking part in exercise to help with their cancer diagnosis. By April 2022, John was able to complete a massive charity cycle for Move from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
While he found the surgery for his cancer had damaged his Achilles tendon meant he couldn’t sprint fast, he found running slowly and steadily was possible. So, he started to run again. Eventually he had the idea of doing Ironman UK in Bolton, to raise more for charity.
This month – which is also Sarcoma Awareness Month – he completed Ironman UK in Bolton in 13 hours and 33 minutes and cheered on by friends and family. The course was made up of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile run – a total of 140.6 miles.
John hopes his story will encourage other men to get checked out if they notice any symptoms that concern them.