Jeff’s support for future generations
After living with cancer for over 15 years, Jeff took on an incredible challenge to help fund groundbreaking research by the experts at Guy’s Cancer who cared for him.
When Jeff Ward discovered his cancer had spread and become life-threatening, the inspirational grandfather-of-two set off on a journey to help advance cancer care for generations to come.
Jeff was first diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma (CTCL) in late 2007. The condition causes the T-cells, the white blood cells that fight off infection, to develop abnormalities and attack the skin.
Only around 200 people are diagnosed with CTCL each year in the UK. For most patients CTCL remains a chronic condition, but in 10% of cases it spreads internally and becomes life-threatening.
Over the years, Jeff, a retired accountant, remained stable under the care of several specialists, including dermatologist Professor Sean Whittaker and oncologist Dr Stephen Morris at Guy’s Cancer. But in November 2020, Jeff received the news that his cancer had spread to his lymph nodes.
He was swiftly started on a programme of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but it was made clear that this would not hold the cancer indefinitely.
It was a horrible shock to hear the cancer was now life-threatening, especially as I’d felt so well
For a long-term remission and even possible cure, Jeff would need a stem cell transplant. As he doesn’t have siblings, a suitable donor was sought through the international register.
While waiting for confirmation of a transplant, Jeff decided to do something special to support the life-saving research being undertaken by his specialists, Professor Sean Whittaker and Dr Stephen Morris, with whom he has developed a close relationship.
“When my diagnosis came, I knew the best way I could deal with this, emotionally and physically was to focus on my fitness and also do something positive for the teams working so hard to keep me well,” says Jeff.
“I said, well I’ve got to set myself a challenge. And that’s when the bike ride arose. I’m going to ride from London to Brighton.”
The key thing is the research that’s going on that might help you or future generations that get the disease.
While London to Brighton wasn’t the actual route, Jeff completed the equivalent of that journey, riding more than 50 miles with 2,500 feet of elevation from North West London into the Hertfordshire countryside.
And he was joined in the saddle by some of the dedicated team at Guy’s Cancer, who Jeff describes as ‘fantastic’. At a consultation Jeff mentioned the ride to Stephen and Sean and made a joke that they had to do it with him.
Jeff said: “I was astonished and delighted that they both said they were on board with idea. This was made even more incredible when Dr Palanicawander (Jeff’s transplant specialist) and one of the nurses who administered my chemo, Annamaria Kostikova, agreed to ride too.”
“I thought we were going to really struggle to raise anything,” says Jeff.
“I suggested a total to Jeff,” adds his wife, Trish. “I said this is what you should try to aim for, and he replied don’t be ridiculous, but within a couple weeks he’d surpassed that. It’s astonishing how lovely and generous people are.”
In the end, Jeff raised over £24,000, which will help fund vital research into skin tumours and radiotherapy for skin lymphoma at Guy’s Cancer.
“The key thing is the research that’s going on that might help you or future generations that get the disease,” says Jeff.
“That’s the best way to move forward, by supporting specialists and the teams who do that,” adds Trish.
Delighted that his research will benefit from Jeff’s fundraising, Dr Morris said: “It’s an amazing thing that Jeff has done, and a testament to his determination to turn a difficult situation into something so positive.”
In September 2021, Jeff received the long-awaited news that a suitable stem cell donor had been found. And after a successful transplant the following month, Jeff is recovering well and looking forward to his next cycling challenge.
Join Jeff today, and support the outstanding team at Guy’s Cancer to keep pushing boundaries.