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Sunday, 23 January 2022

Colchester man diagnosed with rare cancer finishes epic military run for charity

JUST seven months after being diagnosed with a rare and devastating liver cancer, cholangiocarcinoma, Colchester resident and 38-year-old father-of-three, Laurence Oakley-Ward, or ‘Laf’ as he is affectionately known by family and friends, has defied the odds by successfully competing in, and finishing, the gruelling PARAS’10 10-mile endurance run for charity.

However, what makes his crossing PARAS’10 finish line all the more impressive is that just 24 hours before, Laf had received his final radiotherapy treatment for his cancer at University College Hospital, London (UCLH).

Laurence’s fundraising effort has smashed his initial target of £500, having now raised well over a thousand pounds (including Gift Aid), and still collecting, for AMMF, the UK’s first and only cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) charity.

The long road to diagnosis and treatment

Laf crossing that finish line was far from an easy journey. It followed hard on the heels of 13 months of exhausting hospital visits and tests, including endoscopies, colonoscopies, and numerous blood tests and difficult treatments, which began in September 2020 at Colchester Hospital in Essex where he was first admitted after going to A&E after feeling unwell at his daughter’s eighth birthday party. The results of tests carried out by A&E staff immediately required Laf to be put on a drip and taken to a ward, where he remained for eight days for further detailed examination by specialists. In December, he was told he might require surgery, and possibly even a liver transplant. Then, in March 2021, some seven months later, Laf received his cancer diagnosis.

Frightened at the prospect of what might lie ahead, just one week later, the situation then took a more positive note: Laf was contacted by world-renowned cholangiocarcinoma specialists, Professor John Bridgewater and later by Professor Maria Hawkins, both of whom are based at UCLH. Under their expert care, Laf started an intensive treatment plan involving chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

As Laf said:

“My cholangiocarcinoma diagnosis came as a real shock, but I was going to fight it all the way! And I couldn’t have had better expert care than that of Professor Bridgewater and Professor Hawkins, who not only moved quickly to put me on the right treatment pathway but gave me a more hopeful outlook. It’s thanks to them that I am here today and had the confidence to take part in my second PARAS’10 race and plan on running my third in May 2022. It not only gave me something positive to focus on, but I also wanted to raise as much awareness as possible about this little-known cancer and fundraise for AMMF, the UK’s only cholangiocarcinoma charity. The future is already looking far brighter.”

Helen Morement, CEO, AMMF commented:

“Laurence’s inspirational fundraising endeavour in aid of AMMF is nothing short of remarkable, especially when you hear that it was done the day after his final radiotherapy treatment. He has shown incredible courage, and not only raised much-needed funds for AMMF but awareness of the devastating but little-known cancer, cholangiocarcinoma.”

Helen adds,” The incidence of cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) appears to be increasing across all age groups, including younger people, so there is an urgent need for research to find the causes of this disease so we can develop better diagnostic tests and more effective treatments. We are enormously grateful to Laurence for his invaluable support which will help AMMF continue its vital work.”

To donate to Laf’s fundraising effort for AMMF, please visit his Virgin Money Giving page.

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