Whenever we have the opportunity to share someone’s personal story with you it opens up the space for us to look within and ask ourselves, what would I do if I was faced with adversity? What would you do? How would your life’s purpose evolve?
Today we share with you the My Story of a very courageous man who not only survived his triple cancer diagnosis, but a man who has decided to do great things in the years following so that others can feel inspired and learn how to overcome disease and illness. Patrick McIntosh believes that staying positive, eating well, getting checked, and exercising regularly are the keys to fighting and preventing cancer. He is spreading his message on a global ride to fight cancer on his 7,000+ cycling trip from Twickenham, UK to Tokyo, Japan.
This is Patrick’s story.
What type or stage of cancer did you have?
I’ve had three types of cancer: bowel, prostate, and skin. Some might say I’m extremely unlucky but it’s quite the contrary – I’m incredibly lucky in that the cancers were caught early and completely by chance. I gave blood in 2012 and tests found that my iron levels had fallen off the cliff. That led to a whole train of events that resulted in me finding out at the age of 58 that I had bowel cancer. The doctor told me that I shouldn’t even have been standing up – I’d been bleeding internally. Doctors operated almost immediately, removing parts of my large and small intestines, stomach muscles, and five lymph nodes. I thought my journey with cancer was over and seven months later I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in three days. However, after more tests in spring 2013, I was diagnosed with very progressive prostate cancer and underwent a seven-hour operation to remove my prostate along with more “pipework”, muscles, and lymph nodes. At the same time, I was diagnosed with skin cancer, which is ongoing but I get regular check-ups to keep it under control.
What was the primary cancer treatment facility involved in your care and what was your experience there?
I’m a financial advisor and I practice what I preach: I had health insurance with critical illness cover and so benefitted from £1 million pounds worth of treatment in a range of places. Since my diagnosis, my bowel is 17 inches shorter, I no longer have a prostate, and I’ve had many skin growths removed from my face, hands, and back. At first, the doctors thought that none of the cancers were connected – it was all, as they said, simply bad luck. I have since found out that I have Lynch syndrome and Muire Torre syndrome, inherited disorders from my mother’s side, that increase my risk of getting certain types of cancers – if you like, it’s spelling mistakes in my genome. My brother also had Lynch syndrome and died of cancer one and a half years ago, but thankfully his children don’t have this genetic defect. My mother and grandfather also died of cancer and my sister has had similar cancers as me; she is still with us.
What organizations were the most helpful to you?
Since my cancer scare I’ve been a firm advocate for eating better, exercising more, staying positive and early diagnosis. Although they weren’t directly relevant to my treatment, I’d like to highlight the work of World Cancer Research Fund (www.wcrf-uk.org) and my local hospice, St Catherine’s in Crawley (www.stch.org.uk), which does wonderful work for those with cancer and other life-limiting conditions and those who aren’t as lucky as me.
What is your greatest source of strength and/or inspiration?
For me, exercise is key. I’ve always been quite fit and adventurous, climbing mountains and sailing across the Atlantic. My family had hoped that after having cancer I’d take it easy. However, having three different types of cancer has pushed me mentally and physically – testing my limits. I thought to myself, I’m still alive, so I should do something to help other people make it. While I was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer it was just before the 100th anniversary of Shackleton’s expedition to the South Pole and that’s when I hit on the idea of trekking to the South Pole. I thought I could do something that would really grab the public’s attention and raise awareness of cancer.
Now I am taking on a new challenge. I’m a huge rugby fan so I thought why not cycle to Japan in time for the Rugby World Cup! So, I’ll be cycling from Twickenham Stadium to Japan: over 7,500 miles and more than 50,000 meters of ascent, crossing northern Europe and Russia.
Is there an inspirational quote or song that keeps you moving forward and gives you strength in your life?
It may seem like a downer, but Tom Paxton’s ‘’How Come The Sun” speaks to me and inspires me to spread this message of looking after ourselves and the planet. “How come the sun doesn’t shine any more / Is it tired of what it’s been shining down on?” It struck a chord with me as a young man and has been with me ever since. For the “Life Cycle”, this mad journey on a bike I’m going to do, I’ve also been training to “Magical Mystery Tour” by the Beatles… Roll up, roll up!