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Stray FM Local Hero joins forces with cancer charity

Stray FM Local Hero joins forces with cancer charity

Published at 2:54pm 29th June 2017. (Updated at 6:38pm 29th June 2017)

One of Stray FM's Local Heroes is hoping that his story will highlight the importance of diagnosing life-threatening illnesses early.

Jack Watkins, from Ripon, was rushed into hospital on New Year's Eve in 2015 and doctors found that he had a rare bone marrow disease.

Aplastic anaemia is a serious disorder where the bone marrow fails to produce enough blood cells.

After his recovery, Jack has teamed up with the Teenage Cancer Trust to raise awareness among young people.

He said: "I woke up and my pillow was covered with blood and obviously I'd been bleeding from my gums, which is a symptom of aplastic anaemia. I'd just had a filling the other week and I went to the dentist about it and they said it was probably due to that.

"Until I went to my GP and had a blood test, I didn't think anything of it all. I found out that my bloods were completely flat. I think a lot of people were surprised that I kept going on bloods that low.

"I would never nap in the day, but the few months before I got diagnosed, I was just sleeping constantly. If something is really off from what your norm is, then don't hesitate to go to your GP about it. Better safe than sorry."

Jack Watkins

Jack Watkins at Stray FM's Local Hero Awards

According to the Teenage Cancer Trust, young people are often diagnosed later than adults.

Regional Fundraiser Heather Bowen said: "I can go to the doctor with maybe a headache or a knee injury or a joint injury and I can be diagnosed almost instantly. When you're this age group, you're supposed to be tired because you never sleep, you're losing weight because you never eat, you've got a sports injury, but actually it might be Ewing sarcoma.

"It takes a longer time for a teenager to be diagnosed, because the growing up period of a teenager has all sorts of things connected to it - growing pains, headaches, exams, stress - so quite often it will not be looked at as a first instance, so that's something that we're trying to address."

To help raise awareness and money for the Teenage Cancer Trust, some of Jack's friends are taking on the Three Peaks Challenge.

Jack said: "These lads have been in their final year of university, they've had all their exams, all the stress, and to contemplate doing a challenge such as this, through all that with training, I couldn't ask for more.

"Having a friendship group like that and the support is what really gets you through the whole diagnosis.

"Last year, they did the Great North Run, they raised nearly £6,000 altogether, and for me to stand at the finish line and watch them all cross in their Teenage Cancer Trust tops, just for me and the rest of the Teenage Cancer Trust, definitely brought a tear to my eye. It's absolutely incredible."

More information about Jack's fundraising for the Teenage Cancer Trust at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jackwatkins3peakschallenge