A CANCER survivor is gearing up for an annual charity walk that has seen thousands raised to benefit the facility that saved his life.
Steven Gutridge will never forget his 20th birthday – it was the day medics told him: “Happy birthday. We’ve got some bad news.”
He was diagnosed with testicular cancer, having found a lump, and faced an agonising time which saw him have a testicle removed a month later.
The cancer spread to his lymph nodes and he also underwent 10 weeks of intensive chemotherapy.
Because of his young age, he was given the option to harvest sperm for any future hopes of having a family.
“It was a bit of a shock, I didn’t think I’d make it to 21,” said Steven, an oil and gas industry mechanical engineer who lives in the Bishop Cuthbert area of Hartlepool.
But after three-monthly, then six-monthly and yearly check-ups, when he was 25 he was given the all-clear.
Now five years on, aged 29, he is fighting fit and has medics at James Cook to thank for saving his life.
For the past six years, Steven has organised a 35-mile walk, from the White Horse landmark near Kilburn in North Yorkshire, to Roseberry Topping, near Great Ayton, to help the unit through the South Cleveland Cancer Research Fund, which covers the Hartlepool and North Tees hospitals.
Steven and 38 of his friends and family took part in the walk, which was held last June and took 12 hours to complete.
He has just handed over £4,000 to Dr Adrian Rathmell, an oncology specialist at Middlesbrough’s James Cook University Hospital, who also takes part in the walks.
Steven estimates the walk to have raised at least £10,000 over the years.
Before Steven’s illness, his father had helped to organise a similar walk in aid of Hartlepool & District Hospice for about 20 years, which Steven also participated in.
Steven was studying for a mechanical engineering course at Hartlepool College of Further Education at the time of his illness.
The college lends support by providing two free minibuses and diesel and drivers, without which he says the walk wouldn’t be possible.
Former college principal Michael Bretherick, a close friend of Steven, also takes part in the walk every year.
He also thanked Bryn and Sharon Flicker, of town firm Helios Precision Engineering, which makes a donation every year and Bryn and four of his employees took part.
Steven thanked his parents Mandy and Steve, Dr Rathmell, Mr Bretherick, Mark Barker, who drives a minibus and is part of a support team on the walk and girlfriend Kylie Heckles.
This year’s walk takes place on June 28.