ANDREW Park was told a month ago that he is terminally ill with pancreatic cancer - but the 73-year-old is refusing to let such a devastating diagnosis hold him back.

Mr Park, who lives in Newport, took to his bicycle yesterday to help his daughter Ellen - also backed by other family members and friends - to complete a fundraising challenge which has raised thousands of pounds to support research into the disease.

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The diagnosis, delivered during a consultation via a video link on May 1, came as a shocking "bolt out of the blue", said Mr Park (above).

"You have two choices. You either give up and be miserable, or you can be positive," he said.

"But there's always something to be got out of each situation, and a huge amount of good is coming out of this."

Mr Park's wife Mary and daughter Ellen told the Argus this weekend of their feelings of helplessness and powerlessness on learning that the seemingly fit and healthy regular runner and tennis player may have between three and six months to live.

But after a few days, thoughts turned to trying to do something positive to raise awareness of a disease that often presents symptoms only at a very advanced stage, and which attracts a tiny percentage of research funding.

Pancreatic cancer kills around 9,000 people a year in the UK, and there are approximately 10,000 new cases every year.

"It took a couple of days to pick ourselves up, but after the initial bolt out of the blue everybody has shown their strength," said Mr Park, who worked as lawyer.

"My wife and daughters have been incredible. Everyone has pulled together and the support has been amazing. It has helped to keep morale high.

"So many people have been in touch to wish me well, and I've been in contact with people I haven't spoken to for 50 or 60 years."


Ellen Park decided to raise money for pancreatic cancer research, through the charity Pancreatic Cancer UK, by running the equivalent of a half marathon every day for a week. Son Lewis Schmeits and their labrador dog Boris have chipped in too with five miles a day each.

That gruelling challenge came to an end yesterday as members of the Park family, and friends, completed a final three-mile, socially-distanced run - or cycle, in Mr Park's case - along the Usk riverfront in Newport.

South Wales Argus:

Ellen Park with son Lewis Schmeits and labrador Boris after completing the fund- and awareness-raising challenge

More than £5,000, taking gift aid into consideration, has so far been raised - more details here - but raising awareness of the symptoms and the need for people to act on them, is key to their efforts too.

Mr Park remains positive, and if a treatment for the obstructive jaundice he has developed is successful, he might become eligible for chemotherapy and surgery, though less than 10 per cent of cases proceed to the latter stage and there is no guarantee of success.

In the meantime, he has been busy speaking to some of his sporting heroes, after his other daughter Sally issued a call-out on Twitter asking them if they would spare some time to contact him.

So far, two-time Olympic decathlon gold medallist Daley Thompson, double Olympic 1,500m gold medallist and long-time world 800m record holder Sebastian (now Lord) Coe, England Rugby World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson, and Olympic 800m and 1,500m gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes have answered the call.

"It's been amazing. Daley Thompson and I were talking and Sebastian Coe suddenly appeared in the conversation, and with Jonny Wilkinson it felt like we could have talked for ever.

"These are ordinary people who have done extraordinary things with their extraordinary talents and skills, and they have been kind enough to give up their time for me."