Great-grandad celebrates 11th anniversary of diagnosis with epic walking challenge

Press release posted 3 January 2024

In 2021, Ralph White spent a lot of December being treated for a second cancer as an inpatient at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester. Now, 2 years on, he is doing well and is taking on a second mammoth walking challenge to raise money for his local children’s hospice.

Ralph is now 77 and lives by the sea in Cumbria with Lynn, his wife of 45 years. The pair have 3 children, 8 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren, Rowan and Juniper (4 and 2).

Ralph has had cancer twice. He was initially diagnosed with a prostatic stromal sarcoma – a rare cancer that makes up less than 0.1% of all tumours found in the prostate – back in 2012.

Sarcomas are cancers that develop in the bones and soft tissues, including fat, muscles, blood vessels, nerves, deep skin tissues and fibrous tissues. When Ralph was diagnosed, his cancer had spread to the bladder which meant he had to have it removed. He had 6 weeks of daily radiotherapy at The Christie followed by a 9-hour operation to remove his bladder and fit a urostomy bag.

His treatment was successful but just before he was due to get the 10-year all-clear from his initial diagnosis he noticed that he had some blood in his poo and ended up being diagnosed with a second cancer – bowel cancer – in late 2021.

He had another long operation at The Christie and had to have a colostomy bag fitted. He was in hospital for nearly 3 weeks over Christmas and has been doing well ever since.

“To be diagnosed with a cancer so rare that my consultant maybe only sees 1 case a year is one thing, but then to be diagnosed with a completely different cancer 10 years later was something else,” comments Ralph. “It’s been mentally and physically tough at times – I have 2 stomas so have had to adapt to that – but I’m doing well and am getting the most out of life.”

For Ralph, getting the most out of life has meant getting out there and raising money for his local children’s hospice. His first challenge – a 2-mile-a-day walk for 10 days to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his initial diagnosis – took place just 10 days after he left hospital. His second, to celebrate the 11th anniversary will see him walking 60 miles (the distance between Barrow and Chorley along the canal) in 3 stages in the grounds of his local leisure centre.

“To me, these challenges are really important,” comments Ralph. “I’m still here and thriving, and I have The Christie to thank for that. Not everyone is as lucky.”

Ralph will be walking 60 miles over three days. He completed the first 2 stages in late November and will do the third soon.

“I’ve always set my sights high. I want to prove that people have had cancer are capable of doing something like this, all while raising money for a fantastic cause,” continues Ralph. This challenge will see me walk 3 times the distance than I did last time. I initially wanted to go further but my family managed to reign me in. I am lucky to have such wonderful support from them.”

“The Christie is a specialist surgical centre for both the cancers Ralph had,” comments Rachel Connolly, colorectal clinical nurse specialist at The Christie. “We have the expertise to deal with advanced and complex pelvic cancer that can only be managed here, so patients must get referred to us as soon as possible.

“He was with us for nearly 3 weeks, so we got to know him well. He’s such a lovely man who just has a zest for life and I’m so happy that he’s doing so well after everything he’s been through. All the team at The Christie wishes him well as he takes on this challenge.”

Last updated: January 2024