A kind-hearted Cumbria GP, whose selflessness helped save his own life, is jetting off to the US this October to raise vital funds for a local hospice.
In a twist of fate, David Cheung, a GP at Ash Trees Surgery in Arnside and Carnforth, was undergoing tests to become a kidney donor when doctors discovered a large tumour on his left kidney.
Now, 12 months on from treatment for kidney cancer, David, 45 will be marking the milestone by running the Chicago marathon for St John’s Hospice in Lancaster.
Last summer, after being inspired by a couple from his church who had each donated a kidney to their son, David took his own necessary steps to becoming a kidney donor.
It was only then, in August 2017 despite having no symptoms whatsoever, that doctors found the 11x8cm growth and made their shock diagnosis. Then in October 2017, David had a successful operation to remove the tumour along with his left kidney.
“It all happened so quickly and really brought it home to me that cancer can affect anyone,” said David. “My family and friends found it more difficult to accept but you just have to rationalise that these things happen and I’m no different to any other patient. I received excellent care from the NHS and was also incredibly well supported by work colleagues and the church.”
A keen runner who regularly volunteers at Lancaster’s parkrun, David even managed to complete his fourth marathon – in Yorkshire – just a week before his operation. The Chicago marathon is part of his bid to chalk off the World Series – six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world – with the others being in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, and New York City.
“I know how important it is to exercise and keep healthy post diagnosis so community events like parkruns are a great way to look after ourselves,” he says. “I’ve also come to realise that it’s important to talk about it. I am living proof that people can survive cancer but a big part of that survival journey is being able to talk about it.
“Another reason for telling my story now is to highlight how important it is to be a donor. We’re in a nation where there are so many people on the transplant list that we need to do more to change attitudes and raise awareness of how the gift of donation can transform someone’s life. And the irony that it was getting involved with the transplant team that saved my own life isn’t lost on me.”
David has raised money in the past for both cancer and kidney charities but his marathon efforts will be focusing on a charity a little closer to home. As a GP, he has strong professional links with St John’s Hospice and knows how vital it is to the local community.
“A personal interest of mine has always been palliative care and I had the benefit of working as a weekend GP at St John’s a few years ago. In my day job, I have referred many people as in-patients and day patients and we really are so lucky to have it as part of our local community. St John’s offers wonderful care at times of real emotional stress and distress and it can only continue to survive with people supporting it through fundraising efforts like this.”
To find out more about David’s story and his marathon fundraising efforts, visit https://give.everydayhero.com/uk/davidcheung