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Gary Parsons' marathon fundraising challenge during chemotherapy treatment

A FATHER of two undergoing chemotherapy for cancer has raised more than £4,000 by completing a marathon running, cycling and rowing event.

Gary Parson (41), from Hordle, initially set himself the target of £500 to buy heat pads for other patients, after they had helped alleviate the side effects of his treatment for stage 3 bowel cancer.

But after reaching his goal in less than 24 hours, he decided to carry on fundraising for Supershoes, a charity which creates one-off trainers for children with cancer.

Gary Parsons (left) during the challenge with supporter Martin Bloor
Gary Parsons (left) during the challenge with supporter Martin Bloor

Gary, who is a football referee, started his challenge by running from the Jigsaw ward at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital to AFC Bournemouth's Vitality stadium and then back to Iford Bridge where he canoed down the River Stour to Mudeford RNLI station.

Finally he cycled back to Bournemouth along the coast, through Talbot Woods and Winton, before returning to Mudeford. He was joined by his friend Martin Bloor for all three legs of the challenge.

Gary said: “We got slightly carried away and covered 29.5 miles in four hours on land and water.”

For Gary, who was diagnosed in May 2020, the news of his illness was a complete shock which was discovered after he was unable to donate blood during a routine appointment and contacted his doctor for advice.

He said: “Apart from being tired, I didn't have any of the classic bowel cancer symptoms, so it never crossed my mind. The blood MoT revealed that I had low iron levels, but my GP wasn't too concerned.

“We had a conversation about a change in lifestyle – I had recently started a new diet and training programme, so I thought the two were linked. Just to be on the safe side, he referred me for a colonoscopy to look for any ulcers causing a small bleed.”

On the water (46603580)
On the water (46603580)

Afterwards Gary and his wife Louisa received the devastating news a cancerous tumour had been discovered, and later the news that it had spread to Gary’s lymph nodes.

He said: “Bowel cancer has changed my life, the impact of it is huge. My personality has changed – I'm no longer the heart and soul, I'm scared and I'm not ready to leave my family behind yet. I am unable to work as a football referee due to Covid and my condition. The days are long and dark.”

As parents of two teenaged sons, Gary and Louisa have been open and honest about his treatment journey from the beginning.

Gary said: “None of us know how this will end but we are getting through it as a family. My wife has been my rock, she has dragged me out of the dark hole on a number of occasions.”

Gary’s challenge raised enough money to buy 20 pairs of Supershoes for children with cancer.

A spokesperson for Supershoes said: “Although Gary is unfortunately beyond the age to receive his own Supershoes, he’s still very young to be battling bowel cancer.

“How awesome is it, then, that Gary is thinking of others and sharing the love at such a challenging time in his, and his family’s, life, by raising funds for children and young people who are also going through treatment for cancer?"

To donate visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/gary-parsons

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