A hard-working dairy engineer who never seemed to fall ill, 37-year-old Garstang dad Chris Shaw was given the devastating news in January that the swelling in his calf was in fact a sign of cancer.
Now his wife Sarah, and their two children, Ryan, 10, and Amy, 6, are taking on Race For Life’s Pretty Muddy challenge on Saturday at Moor Park, in Sir Tom Finney Way, Preston.
The annual event - a mud-splattered obstacle course - raises funds for Cancer Research UK.
Nurse Sarah, who will also sound the horn to set participants off on the children’s Pretty Muddy race, said: “When Chris first told me he had cancer, I thought, ‘That can’t be true. He’s fit and healthy. I’m the one who’s normally ill’.
“I was in disbelief.”
Chris, who is originally from Morecambe, began suffering with aches in his right calf before Christmas.
His wife Sarah, 33, added: “He is hardly ever ill so we put his aches down to working. His right calf was very swollen compared to the other one, so we thought it was a blood clot. But doctors then found a suspicious-looking mass that looked like cancer. We just knew it was cancer from that moment on.”
And then came the news on January 17 that the family had been dreading, following further investigations: Chris had rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of cancer that forms in soft tissue.
The family were plunged into further shock when it was also revealed that the disease had spread to his lymph nodes in his chest, the back of the knee, both of his thighs and hips, and the groin, pelvis and abdominal areas.
“His prognosis was looking very bleak and there was the chance he could have lost his leg. We were really worried. We were making our wills and sorting out life insurance,” Sarah said.
“Immediately, we thought he was going to die. Our first thought was the children. It was a scary time. But being a nurse, I personally went into autopilot, a sort of logical, survival mode, going from one appointment to the next.”
Chris was referred to a specialist in Liverpool in February, who ruled out surgery to remove his calf muscle due to the cancer being too deeply located in the lymph nodes. He then began chemotherapy that same month, and has also just started radiotherapy.
“They reviewed him in April, and tests showed the chemotherapy was working but there was still a way to go, and we struggled to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re early on in our journey and we don’t want to get our hopes up because it could come crashing down. We’re very up and down.”
But taking part in the fundraising event is helping the family find some fun in their lives again, with Sarah adding: “It throws some light and positivity on such a dark time for us.”
To make a donation to the family’s fundraiser, head to https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/sarahs-race-for-life-211007034553