A young man who nearly died FOUR times while undergoing gruelling treatment for cancer is now hoping to help others.
At his lowest point, 27-year-old Ricki Watson weighed just seven stone and had to be tube-fed. But now - after a dramatic recovery - grateful Ricki wants to help other people going through a similar experience. “I’m raising money to save the next person like me,” he said.
Rick, from Horsham, was diagnosed with two strains of leukaemia in October 2013 and the only cure was a stem cell transplant. With the help of blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan a donor was found for Ricki, and the transplant took place in January 2014.
Ricki, who co-owns a scaffolding business, said: “When I was in hospital I was the most positive I could be. I nearly died from allergic reactions four times, and was put on a ventilator when my lungs gave up, but I always stayed strong.”
Now he credits his dramatic recovery following his transplant to eating healthily and exercising since he left hospital. “Two years ago I couldn’t even walk up the stairs. I had to give up my house and live with my mum in Crawley. I had to stop halfway up climbing the stairs to have a breather.
“I was determined that I wasn’t just going to get better, I was going to be even stronger than I used to be.
“As soon as I got out of hospital I was back in the gym. Eight months later I climbed Ben Nevis.”
While in hospital, he made a promise to himself that he would run the London Marathon in memory of two friends he made on the ward who sadly passed away. And he’s now set to achieve his goal when the marathon takes place this week.
He has already beaten his £5,000 fundraising target, and is determined to raise as much money as possible for future cancer patients like him.
“Anthony Nolan saved my life,” he said. “There’s no other way to say it. I’m raising money to save the next person like me, the next person that walks in. For some reason I’ve been saved and have been able to get back to normal life.”
Ricki was 23 when he discovered he suffered from two types of leukaemia. “I had a routine blood test at the doctor’s and got a call at 1am telling me to come straight to the hospital. When I arrived there was a team of doctors waiting in gowns and masks – it made me wonder what was wrong with me.
“Because I had two different types of leukaemia a stem cell transplant was the only option.”
Although Ricki has two brothers and two sisters, none of them was a suitable match. Anthony Nolan searched the worldwide donor register and found a woman from Germany who matched his tissue type. Although Ricki has not spoken to her directly, the pair have exchanged anonymous cards and letters.
“I sent a card to her last year – I had to let her know that she’d saved me.” He added: “I’ve never met her but she’s changed my life.”
Ricki has many more challenges planned for the year, to keep giving back to the charities and people who helped him. For now, though, he is concentrating on getting to the finish line in the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday, and is aiming for a time of less than four hours.
Anthony Nolan spokeswoman Kirsty Low said: “Ricki has made an amazing recovery, and we are thrilled to have him as one of our lifesaving runners for the London marathon.
“The money and awareness he is raising will help us continue our work of saving and improving the lives of people with blood cancer and blood disorders.”
To sponsor Ricki, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Ricki-Watson