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Dad takes on gruelling triathlon for Liverpool cancer charity that helped get his life ‘back on track’

12 months ago

Dad takes on gruelling triathlon for Liverpool cancer charity that helped get his life ‘back on track’

A Liverpool dad took on a gruelling triathlon almost a year after being diagnosed with cancer as a thank you to Maggie’s, the Merseyside charity that helped get his life ‘back on track’.

Karl Prothero raised more than £2,000 for Maggie’s who supported him after treatment for head and neck cancer.

Karl, 52, originally from Toxteth but now living in Heswall, says: “After my treatments had finished my mental health was deteriorating as I had no idea what to do next. 

“I was very emotional, sad, and depressed. Maggie’s knew how I was feeling without me having to explain it. They knew the journey I was on, they knew my emotional state, and they were there to support me.”

And he adds: “I chose to fundraise for Maggie’s because I was so grateful for their support. When I needed it – and I really did need it – Maggie’s was there.”

Maggie's Merseyside triathlon - The Guide Liverpool
Action man Karl takes part in the Royal Windsor Triathlon (1)

Karl raised £2,150 for the charity, based in the grounds of Clatterbridge Cancer Centre (Wirral), after taking part in the Royal Windsor Triathlon earlier this month.

Competitors – who in previous years have included the likes of sporting legends Jonny Wilkinson, Tanni Gray-Thompson, Gareth Thomas and Jenson Button and, even, royalty in the form of Princess Beatrice – start with a swim in the River Thames, before riding a bike through the streets of Windsor past the famous castle, and then running into Windsor Great Park.

With two race categories – Sprint and Olympic – Karl undertook the second more challenging option which meant a mile swim, a 25-mile bike ride, and a six-mile run.

And while he’s run marathons and Iron Man competitions and competed in 60 triathlons before, he says: “This was the hardest yet, both physically and emotionally.

“The year before I had done it and found I was unable to swim freestyle, all I could do was breaststroke, so that was the first time I realised something was wrong.  So I wanted to do it this year, not only to raise money and awareness for Maggie’s who are amazing, but to banish the demons the previous race had left me with.”

Maggie's Merseyside triathlon - The Guide Liverpool
Karl rings the bell at the end of his cancer treatment

Karl was diagnosed with head and neck cancer on August 17 last year, after finding a golf ball-sized lump on the side of his neck, which turned out to be a tumour on the base of his tongue and three enlarged lymph glands.

He goes on: “I had a seven-hour operation to remove the primary and secondary cancers and also a neck dissection to remove the lymph glands. Then between November 14 and December 23 I had 30 sessions of radical radiotherapy.”

Although Karl, who works in the printing industry, started retraining gradually in January to try to get back his fitness, not knowing if he was rid of cancer – he didn’t get the all-clear until May – and the trauma of what he’d been through took its toll.

And it was wife Jackie, with whom Karl has a son, Charlie, 21, who suggested Maggie’s. 

“Jackie could see that my mental health was deteriorating as I had no idea what to do next. When I went to Maggie’s I hadn’t planned to visit, but after dropping Charlie at Lime Street to go back to uni in February, I had a bit of a break down and, as I went home, I did a U-turn and drove there.

“As I walked through the door I met Lynne, the cancer specialist nurse, who asked me if I was okay, and I told her I didn’t know what I was doing there. She said to sit down, have a drink, and we’d have a chat; and that was the start of my journey with Maggie’s. 

Maggie's Merseyside triathlon - The Guide Liverpool
Karl with Wife Jackie and Son Charlie

“I joined the Where Now? group, a course for people at the end of treatment to establish ways to help get life back on track. It was me and five women who’d had breast cancer, and it made me realise that I wasn’t on my own.  Our facilitator Debbie was such a wonderful person, so kind and generous, and she opened the way for us to all to try and work out where we were and where we were going. We had a good laugh along the way, as well as some tears, and Maggie’s was, is, just amazing.

“One of the other women said to me one day that the world was a better place with me in it, which means so much when you have a Sword of Damocles hanging over your head and you don’t know if you want to carry on because it’s all so overwhelming.

“I wanted to raise money for Maggie’s because I was so grateful for the support, and I don’t think they blow their own trumpet enough about how incredible they are.” 

Maggie's Merseyside
Karl on the finishing line with Jackie and Charlie

Karl’s next fundraising challenge will be in November when he and Jackie are competing in the Strictly Maggie’s Event at the Titanic Hotel, Liverpool. 

Kathy Wright, Centre Head at Maggie’s, says: “We are extremely grateful to Karl and we can’t thank him enough for taking on such a tough physical challenge after facing such difficult times. We are pleased to hear that Karl found comfort at Maggie’s.”

* If you or anyone you know is struggling with the impact of cancer, just drop in to Maggie’s. It’s there to support anyone affected by cancer, along with friends and family, and provides free practical, emotional and psychological support. For more information go to www.maggies.org/our-centres/maggies-wirral/

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