David Bamforth, 52, has raised more than £13,000 for Myeloma UK since he was diagnosed with the condition in September, after an anomaly first appeared in the results for a routine medical check linked to his job as a railway operator for Freightliner.
He said: “They whole thing really came out of the blue. I had no obvious symptoms, and was working out in the gym all the time. Nothing felt any different. The doctor who did my medical said there was protein in my urine, and it was probably nothing to worry about, just that I should tell my GP.”
A follow-up private blood test found that David was quite healthy, but suggested there may be an issue with his renal function, and David’s GP eventually referred him on to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield to investigate possible kidney disease – so the diagnosis of myeloma came as total surprise
He said: “It happened on a Friday and we were supposed to fly out to Greece on the Wednesday for our first holiday since the start of the pandemic. It was devastating news, and really put everything in perspective.”
Difficult to detect
Myeloma is a form of cancer which occurs in the bone marrow and affects the production of blood cells in a way which makes them less effective at fighting infections.
Around 5,800 people in the UK are diagnosed with the condition every year, although it is especially difficult to detect as symptoms are often linked to general ageing or more minor ailments. While it is incurable, in the majority of cases treatment can increase patients’ life expectancy and improve their quality of life.
David said: “As you can imagine it has absolutely devastated not only myself but my wife Helen, Sam, my son, my parents, family and close friends. Telling everyone was by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do.”
Over a few morale-boosting beers in the pub, it was one of those friends, Chapel resident Mat Wilkinson, who put David on path to fundraising, with the suggestion that they take on a skydive for the charity.
David said: “It was more a joke at the start, I’m scared of heights, but in the end we decided we could do a bike ride.”
On Saturday, April 2, David and around 20 friends will cycle 50 miles in just on day on April 2, from Scarborough to Whitby and back.
David said: “I love mountain biking normally, but I’ve not been able do anything since September. I went out on a practice ride a few days ago and did about 12 miles.
“Going up the stairs knocks me back because of my breathing but cycling seems to be OK. Doing 50 miles might be a bit different but it’s not a race, I have all day and there are plenty of stopping points.”
The pedalling will be made slightly easier by a donation of a battery-aided bike from Peak eBikes at Hassop Station.
The team hopes the event can raise the final total of the campaign to £15,000, after a busy few months in which David has led the fundraising charge while undergoing his first five rounds of chemotherapy and spending more time in hospital battling Covid and pneumonia.
He said: “We originally set a target of £1,000 and passed it within about a week, so we decided to keep going and upped it to £2,000.
“Since then we’ve had a raffle for a collection of signed football shirts and another for prizes donated by businesses across Buxton. Pubs, cafés, the butchers and fish shops – everyone’s said they will do whatever they can.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, and I’m a bit shy about asking people for things but it’s given me something to focus on and showed there is still a really good community spirit here.”
He added: “It’s been unbelievable to have that support and feel like I’m not going through this alone. You don’t realise how much people will be there to offer help. It’s been way to give something back too. We’ve made donations to the Zink foodbank and an appeal for the family of a little boy who was in Sheffield Children’s Hospital.”
A few weeks after David’s bike ride, doctors are hopeful that he may be able to receive a stem cell transplant, which could temporarily suppress the cancer and buy him more time.
He said: “The test results are going in the right direction for now, and if I can get the transplant it could give me three to five years, and then they could try another one, but no one knows how long they could keep it up.”
David knows he may not see a cure in his lifetime, but wants to do everything he can to support the charity’s work and give hope to future patients.
He said: “I’ve think I’ve come to terms with it now, I still have ups and downs, good days and bad days. But I’m just trying to take it one day at a time as I move through the treatment. When I’ve been to one appointment, I look to the next appointment. I’m trying not to look too far ahead.”
To make a donation to David’s total, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/d-bamforth1.
To learn more about the work of Myeloma UK, see myeloma.org.uk.