Jack’s journey: from cancer to the arctic
Last year, Jack Williams won the nomination to be one of UK’s representatives on an epic arctic expedition. He also had stage one testicular cancer.
He launched the online campaign from his bed as he recovered from surgery to remove a cancerous tumour. He wanted to use this expedition to raise money for research, so got in touch with us. Here is Jack's story.
"What's going to happen?"
“I first went to the doctor in September 2016, after encouragement from my girlfriend to get a lump checked out. After consulting with the GP, I was told that they would be in touch with a referral date to the oncologist. Walking out into the corridor after that meeting, I felt like I was standing on my own tiny, unpleasant stormy island. I remember just thinking- what’s going to happen? And my girlfriend cried, because she was expecting me to just come out of the appointment and say it was a cyst. Or that it would be nothing.
I hadn’t told my Mum at this point because of everything that had happened with my family. She had been through so much so recently. My grandad on my mum’s side passed away from cancer about 10 years ago, although it feels like yesterday. And my dad just passed away from bowel cancer four years ago this October.
Winning my place
Starting the campaign to win a place on the Fjällräven Polar Expedition was a big, welcome distraction for me from my diagnosis. I didn’t have to, but I wanted to raise money for a charity during my campaign to be chosen. Other cancer charities cared for my dad and grandad at the end of their lives. So the natural progression is for me to support research because that’s what pulled me through. Without research, I may not even have lived until Christmas.
Everyone at Worldwide Cancer Research was really rooting for me and supporting me.The charity pride themselves on researching all kinds of cancer, and research that will benefit our generally understanding of it. I also like to think that when you’re researching one idea, you tend to stumble across other answers as well.
In order to win the UK nomination, I even campaigned in my local town of Solihull. My 75-year-old Nan even came with me to get votes. It was a huge shock for her hearing about my diagnosis and a struggle, both her sons and her husband having had cancer, with only one (my Uncle) surviving it.
The campaign kept me sane during a difficult time. Every now and then thinking about my cancer was a bit of a reality check. So the timing was perfect, but physically it was tough. Mentally, the campaigning was a real drain on top of not feeling 100%. I launched the campaign for my place on the polar expedition the day I had my surgery. The campaign itself ran from November and ended a month later when I won the place with over 10,000 votes from the public.
About two weeks after surgery I went to the doctor again for a check-up. I knew at that moment I was about to be told how long I was likely to live. Was my last Christmas on the horizon? However, I was told it was highly curable testicular cancer.
The trip was absolutely amazing. I travelled over 300km across the Arctic. It made me feel so alive. And after I returned from the trip, on May 8th, 2017, I was given the all-clear from cancer.
Now I want to help people who have gone through the same situation as me. I’d like to run a project to help take people out get them outdoor qualifications, help them learn how to navigate in the mountains. The outdoors can be an amazing tonic for people. It makes you feel alive. Going from being told you’ve got cancer and it might kill you, to being somewhere that engages every sense you have because it cuts everything else out, cuts through all the noise. It puts things in perspective.”
Read about Jack's journey in his own words in an article he wrote for The Huffington Post.
You can discover more about Jack’s journey by liking his Facebook page www.facebook.com/jackwilliams.explorer