Walden man backs cancer charity's 10,000 daily steps campaign

Saffron Walden resident Richard Ansell wearing his Cancer Research UK t-shirt

Saffron Walden resident Richard Ansell wearing his Cancer Research UK t-shirt - Credit: Cancer Research UK

A Saffron Walden man who had his oesophagus removed and replaced with part of his stomach, as part of treatment to clear him of cancer, is calling on people to support a fundraising campaign.

Richard Ansell, 64, is encouraging people to walk 10,000 steps every day in March for Cancer Research UK’s Walk All Over Cancer.

Richard said: “One in two people are affected by cancer, so it’s really important money is raised for research.”

In November 2019 Richard first started experiencing chest pains and constant hiccupping. He was sent for an endoscopy which discovered he had two small tumours.

Following further investigations and a biopsy, he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in March 2020.

“It’s hard to describe that moment without using a lot of swear words,” he said. “My world fell apart.”

Richard, who works at Stansted Airport, did some walking exercises to prepare for fortnightly rounds of chemotherapy. He was a smoker at the time, averaging about 20 cigarettes a day.

“I was told I could have eight sessions of chemo if I didn’t stop smoking and be dead within two years, or four sessions, surgery and another four sessions if I did and live at least another 10 years.”

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That was all the motivation Richard needed to kick a habit of almost 50 years.

In July 2020 Richard went to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for a complicated eight to nine hour surgery.

The operation was a success and chemotherapy restarted three weeks later. After three more rounds, Richard started having trouble walking.

Investigations showed the chemotherapy was causing peripheral nerve damage in his right leg. Having had his left foot amputated in 1989, followed a motorbike accident 13 years earlier, Richard already had reduced mobility on the opposite side, so it was decided to stop the treatment.

He was closely monitored over the coming months and those involved in his care were pleasantly surprised by his progress. On May 27, 2021, Richard was told the cancer had gone.

“I had a bottle of beer or two when I got home! Around the same time, I found out I was going to be a grandfather and my grandson was born between Christmas and New Year.”

Richard is now looking forward to watching baby Harry grow up as well as heading to Mallorca with his wife, Susan, 62, for their 40-year wedding anniversary holiday, a trip they had to postpone because of the pandemic.

This year marks 20 years since Cancer Research UK was formed.

The charity’s history goes back much further, to the founding of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in 1902.

The charity says that two in four people survive their cancer for at least 10 years right now. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, three in four people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.

The longer term vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

Michael Jarvis, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for the East of England, said: “Just like science is our route out of the pandemic, science is our route to beating cancer.”

To get involved with Walk All Over Cancer see cruk.org/walkallover

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