A myeloma patient from Knighton, Wales, is taking on the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge alongside his fellow firefighters to raise money for Myeloma UK.
On Saturday, 8 July, eight members of the Knighton Fire Crew will scale the three peaks Pen Y Fan, Cadair Idris and Mount Snowdon in 24 hours while sporting their full fire kits and heavy breathing apparatus.
Among them is Dave Cunnington (pictured above, far right), who was diagnosed with myeloma in May 2014. Just three years later, he’s preparing to climb the smallest peak, Pen Y Fan, which rises 886 metres (2907ft) above sea level.
Dave, from Knighton, has been a retained firefighter with the Fire Service for 28 years and also works as a mechanical fitter for a local engineering company.
He told Myeloma UK, “I am starting with Pen Y Fan and hopefully will try to do Snowdon. My main aim is to try and raise as much money as possible and also raise awareness about myeloma, as I had never heard of it before my diagnosis.”
Dave was diagnosed aged 49, four months after he first went to his GP with extreme fatigue. Tests revealed he had a high white blood count and, later, low functioning kidneys. Dave was eventually referred to a kidney specialist at Shrewsbury Hospital in England, who confirmed he had myeloma.
He started treatment the next day and later had a stem cell transplant in February 2015 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Dave went back to work in July 2015, initially on a phased return.
Dave recalls, “I stopped work on the day I was diagnosed. I was always positive and determined to return as a firefighter. I was always out walking during my illness to try and keep as fit and healthy as possible and retain a positive, mental attitude.
“I couldn’t wait to return to work as a firefighter as I’m so passionate about it. The moment my alerter goes off my adrenaline kicks in!”
The close-knit community of Knighton has rallied to raise £2,500 so far, bringing the Knighton Fire Crew close to their £3,000 target. The money raised will be split evenly between The Fire Fighters Charity, which helps and rehabilitates injured firefighters and former members of the Fire and Rescue Service, and Myeloma UK.
Dave’s colleague Marty Jones is one of the Fire Crew taking part in the challenge, which includes a total walking distance of 17 miles (27.4km) and an ascent of around 1500 metres (4920ft).
He said, “It was either this or getting our heads shaved, which would have been a lot simpler! We always fundraise for The Fire Fighters Charity but decided to do something that would raise a bit more profile and money for Myeloma UK, the charity that helped Dave out.
“Before Dave’s diagnosis none of us had even heard of myeloma. Dave isn’t just a colleague, he’s a good friend. It’s been great to see him recover and get back on call with us.”
Dave added, “We are a very close station and have a lot of banter. I appreciate all the guys doing this challenge, including our Watch Manager Martin Neary, who is one of my best mates and has been a real driving force behind this.
“It will be difficult in our fire kit but they all know how important it is to me.”
To help the Knighton Fire Crew raise money for Myeloma UK, donate here.
Feeling inspired? Find more information on how to fundraise for Myeloma UK here.