It happened to me: Elliot Willis
"When I was diagnosed with cancer in December 2015, I was getting ready to compete for Team GB in the 470-class sailing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. I had experienced some symptoms, but at the time no-one thought that it could’ve possibly been cancer. To investigate the symptoms and to find out why I was feeling so tired, the British Sailing Team’s doctor sent me for a colonoscopy. This confirmed that I had colon cancer.
"It was a complete shock – it wasn’t what I had expected to hear, as people my age don’t usually get cancer. After doing our research, my wife Manon and I decided that the best place for me was The Royal Marsden. However, having treatment meant that I had to give up my place at the Olympics. Since my diagnosis, I’ve had two rounds of chemotherapy, intensive radiotherapy and 11 sessions of immunotherapy, which have shrunk my tumour from 11.5cm to 3cm.
"It’s been my hardest battle yet: there were moments when I was in a lot of pain, but I never thought I wouldn’t get through it. The cancer made me very tired. A year ago, I would have two or three naps a day, but now I can spend a full day doing activities – I’m in a much better place now than I was just a few months ago.
This has been my hardest battle yet. I was in a lot of pain, but I never thought I wouldn’t get through it
"To thank The Royal Marsden for my care, and to get my fitness levels back up, I cycled in support of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity as part of The Big C Challenge. Even though I hadn’t done any kind of physical activity for a year, I rode 250 miles in September, culminating with a big bike ride in the New Forest with fellow members of the British Sailing Team.
"There are so many people that I would like to thank on my road to recovery: my wife, my family, my friends, the British Sailing Team and, of course, The Royal Marsden. I’m now thinking about getting to Tokyo 2020 – it’s still my dream to win Olympic gold."
Professor David Cunningham, Consultant Medical Oncologist and Head of the Gastrointestinal Unit, says: “Elliot is on a type of therapy that allows the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells by helping it to recognise them as abnormal malignant cells and then to destroy them.
“To receive his diagnosis at a time where he was preparing for the 2016 Olympics could not have been easy, but Elliot has taken his treatment in his stride. His determination has been an inspiration to us all.”