In the summer of 2010, I’d had some personal problems resulting in the breakdown of my marriage. I moved back home with my Mum and was feeling pretty sorry for myself. But, my life changed when I heard about the illness of an old friend, Wayne Wilson, who I used to babysit for, many years ago. He really wasn’t very well at all and was in hospital undergoing chemotherapy for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.
I went to visit him in hospital and he looked like he’d gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, bruised and battered from the treatments and affects of the cancer. He had tubes coming out of his neck and was clearly in a lot of pain. But he didn’t complain once. He sat on his hospital bed, laughing and joking with his brother, Carl. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel sorry for myself any more.
On 18th December, after two bouts of chemotherapy and no luck with a suitable bone marrow donor, the doctors told Wayne his cancer was not treatable. So, he went home and married his childhood sweetheart, Sammy, in a fairytale white wedding under a blanket of snow. He was very ill by this point and had to use a wheelchair most of the time. But he plucked up the courage and strength to walk his bride down the aisle. There wasn’t a dry eye in the church!
Wayne died just over 2 weeks later. He was 26.
I’d been so touched by his bravery and courage, that I was determined his battle with the disease would not be in vain. So, along with the help of an incredible group of lads, I set up Team Wayne. This group of inspiring guys consisted of: Kev Giles, Mike Murray, James Bowyer, Carl Wright (Wayne’s brother) and Kev Midgeley. Between us, we pledged to raise £2000 in his memory for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.
L-R: Kev Midgeley, Carl Wright, James Bowyer, Damien Davis, Kev Giles, Mike Murray
In order to raise this sum, we vowed to complete the 3 peaks challenge, climbing the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales within 24 hours. Word quickly spread among the local community in our hometown of Cricklade and we were inundated withoffers of support. We had donations of equipment, sponsorship money and a team of friends also organised a fund-raising disco to help us on our way. Despite all the support and planning (including successfully scaling 2 of the 3 peaks in training) our actual attempt at the challenge didn’t quite go to plan.
We climbed the wrong mountain!
Yes, despite Ben Nevis being the highest peak in the whole of the UK, we managed to take a wrong turn and scaled the wrong peak! We managed to climb a mountain called Stob Ban instead!
Our efforts in the Lake District didn't fare much better, either. Two of us gave up half way through ascending Scafell Pike and two of the team got lost! They turned up, the following morning, in a pub the other side of the mountain! We didn't even bother climbing Snowdon.
Incredibly, our story made the national press. With headlines in the Telegraph, The Sun and Metro, we were also featured on several radio stations, with BBC Wiltshire championing our cause. Word spread to TV and the highlight was being featured as one of the jokes on BBC2’s “Have I Got News For You”. The extra media coverage ironically helped our cause and we went on to raise over £10,000 for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.
We plan to carry on fundraising in Wayne’s memory. One day, I hope to scale Kilimanjaro. But next time, I’ll make sure I climb the right mountain!