A Banbridge photographer who is marking one year since finishing his treatment for bowel cancer will be among the first men to take part in this year’s Cancer Research UK Race for Life next month.
Thirty-six-year-old Gary Crossan, will complete the 5k event at Stormont Estate on May 26.
He will be joined by his wife Julie (36) and daughters Rowen, four, and two-year-old Reesa who was only a few months old when he became ill in 2017.
Gary said: “It’s wonderful to be marking one year since completing my treatment for bowel cancer next month by doing the Race for Life with my family.
“It’s been a long journey through illness, treatment and recovery and I’m thrilled to be in good enough health to take part in this important event which raises funds for life-saving research.”
It was in January 2017 that Gary first started feeling unwell.
“I was experiencing severe abdominal pain with irregular bowel movements and I started losing substantial weight,” Gary said.
He added: “I visited my GP who carried out blood tests and she referred me for a colonoscopy.
“The pain became so severe I attended the emergency department in Craigavon Area Hospital in July that year and was admitted for suspected diverticular disease following a CT scan.
“It wasn’t until Halloween that a camera test showed a white mass in my bowel. My consultant said it was a substantial tumour, the size of a tennis ball, and wanted to operate as soon as possible.
“I underwent surgery the following morning to remove the tumour and my large bowel and I was given a colostomy bag.”
The cancer had spread slightly to his glands so just before Christmas 2017 Gary started chemotherapy at the Mandeville Unit in Craigavon and underwent eight cycles.
Gary, who runs his own business, works mainly as a school photographer, as well covering weddings and family portraits.
He said: “I received excellent care from the consultant, staff following surgery and at the Mandeville Unit who looked after all the family during the months of treatment.
“I continued working as best as I could during that time. I didn’t want to let clients down and it helped me to keep busy so as not to dwell too much on what was happening. Thankfully my schools and clients were very supportive during my illness.”
On May 15 2018, the day before his birthday, Gary completed his final session of chemotherapy.
Gary said: “Nearly a year on I am feeling good and enjoying life with my wife and two very energetic young daughters!
“They were only one and two and when I was diagnosed so it was a very difficult time for our family but I know that despite that I am one of the fortunate ones who has benefited from effective treatments.
“I’m really excited about doing Race For Life to raise funds to support the vital research that Cancer Research UK does to help more people beat cancer.”
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring series of 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer by funding crucial research.
Thousands of people will descend on Stormont Estate to take part in the 5k and 10k events on Sunday, May 26, while on Saturday, September 7 Pretty Muddy runs in Ormeau Park.
Frances Kippax-Geary, Cancer Research UK’s Northern Ireland events manager, said: “Our Race for Life events are fun, colourful, emotional and uplifting.
“Tthey help people with cancer by raising money for research, including clinical trials which give patients in Northern Ireland access to the latest treatments.
“You don’t have to be sporty to take part. You don’t need to train or compete against anyone else. All you need to do is go to the Race for Life website, pick an event, sign up and then have fun raising money in whatever way you like.”
Frances added: “Our Race for Life events have been women-only since they started, over 25 years ago. But we now feel the time is right to open them up so that everyone - women, men and children – has the chance to participate together.
“To make a significant difference in the fight against cancer we need to harness as much energy and commitment as possible – so what better way than involving everyone in the community in our events.”
To enter Race for Life today visit raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.