A KNIGHTON firefighter with myeloma has scaled the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge alongside his fellow firefighters to raise money for Myeloma UK.
Dave Cunnington was among eight members of Knighton fire brigade who climbed the three peaks – Pen Y Fan, Cadair Idris and Mount Snowdon – in just 15 hours 30 minutes on Saturday, July 8, despite sporting their full fire kits and heavy breathing apparatus.
The fire crew aimed for a £4,000 target and the community has already raised more than £3,500 for the charity.
Dave was diagnosed with the rare and incurable blood cancer myeloma in May 2014 but he has been a retained firefighter with the fire service for 28 years and also works as a mechanical fitter for a local engineering company.
Dave told Myeloma UK: “My main aim is to try and raise as much money as possible and also raise awareness about myeloma, as I had never heard of it before my diagnosis.”
Dave was diagnosed aged 49, four months after he first went to his GP with extreme fatigue. Tests revealed he had a high white blood count and, later, low functioning kidneys. Dave was eventually referred to a kidney specialist at Shrewsbury Hospital who confirmed he had myeloma and he started treatment the next day and later had a stem cell transplant in February 2015 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
Dave went back to work in July 2015, initially on a phased return.
Dave said: “I stopped work on the day I was diagnosed. I was always positive and determined to return as a firefighter. I was always out walking during my illness to try and keep as fit and healthy as possible and retain a positive, mental attitude.
“I couldn’t wait to return to work as a firefighter as I’m so passionate about it. The moment my alerter goes off my adrenaline kicks in!”
The money raised will be split evenly between Myeloma UK, and the Fire Fighters Charity, which helps and rehabilitates injured firefighters and former members of the Fire and Rescue Service.
Dave’s colleague Marty Jones is one of the fire crew who took part in the challenge, which included a total walking distance of 17 miles (27.4km) and an ascent of around 1,500 metres (4,920ft).
He said: “It was either this or getting our heads shaved, which would have been a lot simpler. We always fundraise for the Fire Fighters Charity but decided to do something that would raise a bit more profile and money for Myeloma UK, the charity that helped Dave out.
“Before Dave’s diagnosis none of us had even heard of myeloma. Dave isn’t just a colleague, he’s a good friend. It’s been great to see him recover and get back on call with us.”
Dave added: “We are a very close station and have a lot of banter. I appreciate all the guys doing this challenge, especially our Watch Manager, Martin Neary, who is one of my best mates and has been a real driving force behind this. They all know how important achieving this was to me.”
Myeloma UK community fundraiser Zoe Meldrum-Craig, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to Dave and his Knighton fire crew colleagues for taking on the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge to support Myeloma UK. Completing all three peaks is a massive achievement, especially so for Dave. It really proves what a myeloma patient can do.”
Knighton Fire Crew’s fundraising page can be found at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/KnightonFire3Peaks
See full story in the County Times