An epic ride

We’re fac­ing an un­cer­tain fu­ture, but we’re do­ing it to­gether

Chat - - Contents - By Hay­ley Lankston, 37, from Launce­s­ton, Corn­wall

If I’d told him once, I’d told him a thou­sand times...

‘You need to go to the doc­tor!’ I said.

My part­ner Gareth stopped rub­bing his leg. ‘OK, I will,’ he agreed. It was April last year, he’d been com­plain­ing of a pulled mus­cle for nearly two months.

I’d been nag­ging him for weeks to get checked out – but as a keen cy­clist, Gareth, then 39, was used to the odd in­jury.

‘The doc­tor thinks I might have arthri­tis in my hip,’ Gareth said as he re­turned from his ap­point­ment.

I was wor­ried, but I knew Gareth was strong and healthy.

Yet af­ter an X-ray, doc­tors no­ticed a shadow on Gareth’s pelvis.

‘We’d like to send Gareth for an MRI scan,’ they told us.

We stayed pos­i­tive, de­cided there was no point wor­ry­ing un­til we knew more.

That June, we left our chil­dren Harry, 6, and Wil­low, 4, as well as Grace, 14 – Gareth’s daugh­ter from his pre­vi­ous mar­riage – with my mum and dad.

We headed to the hospi­tal for the MRI results.

Gareth’s face was white as we sat wait­ing.

‘I’ll be right by your side,’ I said.

But as we walked into the con­sul­tant’s of­fice, I knew it was go­ing to be bad news.

‘There’s a mas­sive tu­mour on your pelvis,’ he said. ‘It’s chon­drosar­coma, a rare form of bone can­cer. It doesn’t re­spond to chemo or ra­dio­ther­apy.’

The only way to get rid of the tu­mour was to cut it out. The blows kept com­ing. ‘The tu­mour is grow­ing into your pelvis. We’ll try our best, but be­cause of its po­si­tion, we might need to am­pu­tate one or both of your legs to re­move it com­pletely,’ the con­sul­tant said.

I looked at Gareth as his eyes widened with shock. My head was reeling. ‘I’ll have the surgery,’ Gareth said firmly.

In July, the night be­fore the op, we trav­elled the 200 miles to the Royal Or­thopaedic Hospi­tal in Birm­ing­ham.

‘I might not have legs to­mor­row. Let’s go out for a last sup­per,’ Gareth joked.

So we headed out for Mex­i­can food, fol­lowed by a cin­ema trip to watch Dunkirk.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing, I planted a kiss on Gareth’s cheek as he lay in the hospi­tal.

‘I’ll see you soon,’ I said, smil­ing through my fear.

The next seven hours were ag­o­nis­ing, but fi­nally, I got the call I’d been long­ing for.

‘The surgery went well, you can see him now.’

As I ap­proached Gareth’s bed in the In­ten­sive Care Unit, his face was grey.

‘I can’t feel my legs. Are they..?’ he asked.

‘It’s just the pain re­lief numb­ing them. They’re both here!’ I grinned.

To cut out Gareth’s tu­mour com­pletely, parts of his pelvis and his blad­der had to be re­moved too.

It was such ma­jor surgery, he had to learn to walk again.

But he faced the chal­lenge head on, grit­ting his teeth through the pain.

Two weeks later, Gareth was home. He kept work­ing hard on his fitness, and in less than two months, was back on his bike.

‘I’m go­ing to do a ride for char­ity,’ he said over dinner one night last Septem­ber. ‘You’re mad,’ I said, laugh­ing. Within a cou­ple of weeks, Gareth had ar­ranged a three-day, 240-mile bike ride with a group of pals.

‘We’re go­ing to cy­cle from Launce­s­ton to Lon­don,’ he said.

All the money raised would be go­ing to Sar­coma UK.

He started training, clock­ing

I Iooked at Gareth as his eyes widened with shock

up the miles on his bike.

Only, as we headed into the new year, I could tell Gareth wasn’t him­self.

He strug­gled to put on his socks, un­able to bend over due to the pain.

I felt the fa­mil­iar knot in my stom­ach again.

And sure enough, at his checkup in April this year, we were given more bad news.

Gareth’s can­cer was back – and the odds weren’t good.

‘If you do noth­ing, the can­cer will even­tu­ally kill you,’ the con­sul­tant told Gareth.

‘But if we can guar­an­tee the can­cer has not spread fur­ther than your pelvis, then you’ll be el­i­gi­ble for an­other op.’

The doc­tor ex­plained that it would in­volve re­mov­ing Gareth’s bowel, his blad­der, his prostate and his colon.

He’d need a colostomy and ileostomy bag for life.

And even then, there would only be a 30 per cent chance he would be cured com­pletely.

‘If there’s a chance it’ll work, and I can, I want to go ahead with the op,’ Gareth said.

Dur­ing the car ride back to Corn­wall, Gareth and I talked.

‘I’m so grate­ful you aren’t giv­ing up,’ I said qui­etly. ‘I don’t want to lose you.’

Gareth’s char­ity bike ride went ahead on 25 May.

And de­spite the warm weather, he did bril­liantly.

I’m just happy he’s made it back in one piece!

That epic ride has kept him pos­i­tive. His bril­liant at­ti­tude is keep­ing me go­ing, too.

So for now, we’re mak­ing the most of ev­ery mo­ment we have to­gether as a fam­ily.

And keep­ing our fin­gers tightly crossed.

Amaz­ing Daddy! Us with Harry and Wil­low

The scar af­ter his op­er­a­tion

On the road Cy­cling 240 miles for char­ity in May this year

Unstoppabl­e!

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