Those are the words of Shropshire student Kian Jones who survived a rare brain tumour against the odds. He was admitted to hospital almost exactly nine years ago, aged 11, suffering from repeated migraines and vomiting. His parents were told that, even if he pulled through complex surgery, he could be permanently brain damaged.
But, incredibly, Kian is now in his final year at Birmingham University and remains grateful for the research that led to his life-saving treatment.
The 20-year-old, from Shrewsbury, is preparing to join Stand Up To Cancer, the joint fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4, which raises vital funds.
Kian and his family have pledged to stand up all day on Friday, October 15, to demonstrate that there can be life after cancer.
“If it wasn’t for research I wouldn’t be here today,” he says. “I want to give hope to other people going through it but I also want to raise funds for research because not everyone is as lucky as me.”
Kian’s mum Sabina recalls the exact words his consultant used after spending the first night in hospital by her son’s bedside in October 2012.
“I remember waking up at 3am and they were giving oxygen to Kian,” said Sabina, who was training to be a nurse at the time.
“The consultant pulled his dad and I aside the next morning and said: ‘your son’s very sick and if he had been left another week, he would have just gone like that’ and then he clicked his fingers.
“To hear that was terrifying. All I was thinking was – what if we’d just kept listening to the people who had said it was only migraines?”
Kian, who is studying criminology and security at university, doesn’t recall much of the detail around that time but he remembers the pain he was in like it was yesterday.
“It’s not something I’ll ever forget,” he says. “It was absolutely horrific. I’d just started secondary school where I was still getting to know everyone and it was tough because I was in such agony.”
Kian had to endure brain surgery twice in as many weeks because the tumour couldn’t be removed during the first operation.
“I just kept saying to myself, I’ve got to go through this to get better. I wanted to get back to playing football and going out with my friends.”
Kian underwent four months of chemotherapy followed by seven weeks of radiotherapy.
“Losing my hair that was the really tough bit,” recalls Kian. “I was going back to school as much as I could so I would wear a hat but I was really self-conscious. I’d come home from school, take my hat off and there would be bits of hair in my hat. That nearly broke me.”
Kian was given the all-clear a year after surgery but still has regular hospital check-ups.
“In the early days he would have follow-up scans and we wouldn’t sleep for a week before because we’d be so worried,” says Sabina. “We were scared we’d get that awful news again.
“But Kian’s been amazing and so determined to succeed. The day he got the exam results he needed to get into college was just brilliant. It was such a proud moment for us after everything we’d been told to expect. That’s why Stand Up to Cancer is so important to us. When Kian was going through treatment, we were told that 10 years earlier the treatment plan they had for Kian probably wouldn’t have been available.”
Sabina and Kian’s dad, Dave, will be standing up at work all day on October 15 while Kian and his sisters Mya, 17, and Tia,13, will be standing up at university, college and school.
“Cancer has made me realise that you just need to do as much as you can in life and just enjoy it,” says Kian. “I feel like some kids probably struggle to stay positive and so I just want to help them get through and tell them how I coped to give them a positive mindset. Getting sponsored is such a simple way to support research and show solidarity with everyone affected by cancer.”
Stand Up To Cancer helps to take breakthroughs from the lab and transform them into life-saving new treatments.
The campaign, now in its ninth year in the UK, has raised more than £84 million, funding 59 clinical trials and projects involving over 19,000 cancer patients across the country.
Participants can choose how and where to make their stand, whether it’s on one leg, two legs, on their head, with a walking stick or by doing a wheelie every half an hour if they are a wheelchair user.
Paula Young, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the West Midlands, says: “One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime, but all of us can play a part to help beat it. That’s why we’re asking everyone to Stand Up To Cancer.”
People can also show their support and raise money in style with a range of clothing and accessories available online. The Stand Up To Cancer campaign will continue throughout October with the Channel 4 TV show broadcast on Friday, October 15. Sign up and get a free fundraising kit at: su2c.org.uk/standing-up