Barrow shipyard cancer survivor celebrates his 25th birthday by planning to run the London Marathon

A shipyard sheet metal worker from Barrow, who is recovering from cancer, is celebrating his 25th birthday today (9 May 2022).

Ryan Wilson, who was diagnosed with lymphoma, a blood cancer in the lymphatic system, in January 2021, has also announced that he is hoping to run in the London Marathon in 2023 to thank the cancer centre that saved his life.

Ryan had been experiencing severe night sweats, fatigue and other symptoms before being diagnosed. A scan at Furness General Hospital confirmed that Ryan had cancer and he was referred to Manchester’s internationally acclaimed cancer centre, The Christie.

“At first it really didn’t sink in,” he said. “I hadn’t even heard of lymphoma before this. I was upset, nobody wants this news, and it was the last thing I thought would happen at a young age. But once I got my head around it, I was ready to get started with treatment.

“My family and friends were also shocked, but they have been so supportive. I couldn’t have gotten through this without them and can’t thank them enough. My partner Shannon was amazing, she stayed positive every single day and that helped massively.

“The Christie was brilliant. The staff made me feel so welcome and at ease. Everybody was friendly and happy to help. They answered all my questions and helped me to understand what each treatment was and the side effects.

“I started treatment, but my body didn’t take well to the first kind of chemotherapy, and I ended up in Furness General with sepsis. Whilst there, I had further complications and ended up in intensive care in an induced coma. The staff at Furness General were amazing and I can’t thank them enough.

“The specialist nurse at The Christie, Martha Wilson, was also brilliant. She went out of her way to keep in touch with Shannon every day and helped explain everything. I’m very grateful.

“My consultant at The Christie then came up with a new treatment plan for me, a different type of chemotherapy that was kinder to my body and gave me more time to recover from the treatment between each cycle.”

Ryan had 12 lots of chemotherapy over 6 months and finished his treatment with 15 rounds of radiotherapy over three weeks.

Whist at The Christie, Ryan was treated in the Teenage and Young Adult Unit, a £12m purpose built facility with individual bedrooms, a dedicated gym and music room and two social spaces for young patients. It opened in 2014 following a £10m donation from The Christie charity.

Commenting on the unit, Ryan said: “I was around so many people my age going through the same thing, and it was nice to be able to talk it through with them. I really didn’t mind the two hour journey, knowing that I would be treated so well.”

Having made a good recovery from cancer, Ryan and Shannon, 24, married in November 2021. “Things are going great for me at the moment,” he said. “I’m in remission but having regular check-ups at The Christie. These make me feel more at ease.”

“I’m back at work and am starting to feel like my normal self. I am playing football again and recently took up running to get fit again. It’s so nice to just switch off for a while whilst running. I get a great sense of achievement when I finish, especially if I beat a previous time or distance.”

In addition to football and running, Ryan is a keen walker and loves to go to festivals and music concerts.

Fundraising has been an important part of Ryan’s recovery. “I feel like The Christie is really close to my heart now after everything they have done for me,” said Ryan. “They changed my life and have done the same for so many other people. I have seen what they do first hand, and it is amazing. I want to be able to give back and help them carry on the fantastic work they’re doing.

“Fundraising helped keep my mind busy whilst I was off work and having treatment. It was nice to have something to concentrate on and has made me feel proud. We all know somebody who has had cancer and it’s a brilliant feeling raising money for The Christie. I’ve raised over £15,000 so far.”

Ryan had originally planned to run the London Marathon this year and had been offered one of The Christie charity’s much desired places in the prestigious event. But, as he began to step up his training this Spring, he realised that he was getting pain and was still not back to the level of fitness required to run a marathon 

“Despite having to pull out in 2022, I still want to run The London Marathon in 2023 because it is a unique event known all over the world,” said Ryan. “Not many people can say they have done the London Marathon. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. And no matter how long it takes me, I will be proud just to finish it for The Christie.”

“Ever since I started fundraising for The Christie, they have been very supportive. They keep in touch with me and are always just a phone call or email away if I need help. They even put my name up in the hospital on a gold coin. It’s lovely to get some recognition and support for what I am doing.”

To apply to run in the London Marathon for The Christie charity, please visit our London Marathon page.

The Christie charity supports the work of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust providing enhanced services over and above what the NHS funds. This includes money for care and treatment, research, education and extra patient services. Gifts from the public make a huge difference to the care and treatment that The Christie is able to provide to patients and their families.

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust was the first specialist trust to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ twice (in 2016 and 2018) by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It referred to The Christie as ‘a leader in cancer care’ and ‘a pioneer in developing innovative solutions to cancer care.’ The CQC praised the Trust’s staff which it said ‘go the extra mile to meet the needs of patients and their families’ and that they were ‘exceptionally kind and caring.’ In 2017, the CQC rated The Christie as the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England. 

Last updated: May 2022