From sick bed to the finishing line

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A BRAVE cancer survivor stepped from his wheelchair to walk across the finishing line of Hartlepool’s first Miles for Men race just hours after leaving his hospital bed.

Hartlepool man Richard Griffiths suffers from a rare blood disorder and has overcome cancer, several infections and a bone marrow transplant in the past two years.

The 32-year-old, who admits he is “lucky to be alive” after twice battling back from the brink of death, struggles to walk and has to use a wheelchair.

But he triumphantly got up from his wheelchair during yesterday’s three mile race for cancer determined to walk across the finishing line alongside Miles for Men organiser Michael Day.

Amazingly, Richard left his hospital bed in Newcastle at 8am yesterday morning so he could take part in the emotional event and returned for further treatment last night.

“With our without the doctor’s permission I was coming here today,” he said.

Richard, who with wife Chiara is a former winner of the Mail-backed Bride of the Year competition, joined more than 1,000 men and boys in the sponsored race between Hartlepool and Seaton Carew yesterday.

Despite starting the race in his wheelchair and being pushed by Michael Day, Richard completed the last mile on his own two feet.

Afterwards he said: “I feel ok. Just the emotion of the day kept me going and everyone around me.

“I wouldn’t have missed today for the world.

“This is a cause close to my heart and cancer research carried out previously has saved my life.

“It’s not just about me, everyone has got their own reasons to be here.”

Richard, a dad of two, of Rift House, has only been home nine weeks out of the last 18-months.

The dad-of-two suffers from a rare blood disorder known as Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, which could kill him because it leaves him prone to cancer and pneumonia.

He has already been told he has exceeded his life expectancy of 25.

He was admitted to hospital again on Thursday suffering from shingles.

Richard’s latest health problems started in August 2010 when he was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph glands and had to undergo six sessions of chemotherapy at the Freeman Hospital, in Newcastle.

Then last July he had to have a bone marrow transplant, via a blood transfusion.

That led to him contracting Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a common complication after a transplant, and a viral infection which left him so weak he could barely open his eyes.

The treatment for GVHD is steroids but that makes viral infections worse and Richard said at one point it was simply a case of waiting and hoping that he pulled through.

On two separate occasions, his family were told to say their goodbyes.

He said: “I was in a world of my own with the painkillers and I didn’t realise how close I had come.

“It has been a hard time for my family.”

But he is battling back and it is hoped the bone marrow transplant, courtesy of an American donor, will help cure his blood disorder and prevent the cancer from returning.

Richard has been in remission for the cancer since last July, but won’t get the final all clear for a further four years.

He regularly appeared in the Mail alongside wife Chiara, 32, after she won the Mail’s Bride of the Year in 2008.

He has a five-year-old son Brandon with Chiara and a daughter, Sophie, 11, from a previous relationship.

Richard added: “My family have been a huge help and I am just looking forward to having a more normal married life.”