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29 September 2006 PR 06/110

Cancer survivor dives into championships

A Loughborough University swimmer who beat cancer to win a place in England’s lifesaving team made a big splash at the sport’s Commonwealth Championships this week.
Fine Art sudent Neil Rutter, 22, took part in the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) Commonwealth Lifesaving Championships 2006, where he won a gold medal in the simulated emergency response competition, as well as a silver and two bronze medals in other events.

But just one year ago Neil, from Enfield in London, was undergoing four gruelling bouts of chemotherapy to fight testicular cancer.

He first sought help in 2004 after he discovered a lump. His suspicions were confirmed and he was taken into hospital to have it removed. The operation was a success and Neil, who was set to compete in the RLSS European Championships in Germany in August 2005, returned to training as usual. But a few months later he returned to the doctor after experiencing chest problems and wheezing.

Tests showed he had a small shadow on his lungs, which within four weeks had grown to four times its original size. He was forced to put his training and university career on hold and return to London for urgent chemotherapy. Despite his life-threatening condition, Neil refused to give up – even opting for a night out with friends the night before his chemotherapy started.

He said: “It wasn’t about getting sympathy, that wasn’t what I needed. I much preferred people to take the mickey than be sympathetic. It sounds shallow but I was far angrier that my plans had been interrupted. I couldn’t stop thinking that the chance might not come again. I was angry that it had messed up my training – I didn’t stop to think how dangerous my condition was.”

Throughout his treatment, Neil was buoyed by his fellow team mates, who kept a journal for him, and by a biography of cancer survivor and seven time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong.

He said: “Lance had the same treatment ten years ago and that absolutely destroyed him. That helped me come to terms with the situation. It made me think that I was lucky to be having the treatment now instead of then. I only had a bit of nausea and didn’t even vomit. The scariest thing was going into it and knowing what might happen.”

Just three weeks after his chemotherapy ended, Neil forced himself to join his fellow team mates in the pool. As he was about to dive in he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the water. He said: “I was chubby and bald with no eyebrows – I just didn’t recognise myself. I was shocked at the sight but it was still a high point – I knew I could only get better.”

The sight spurred Neil on to get back to full fitness and amazingly, weeks later he was only half a second away from his personal best speed in the water, an achievement which won him back his place in the team for the Commonwealth Championships.

Neil added: “On the back of what was the worst year of my life, I have had the best year and I want it to continue. I am delighted with the medals I won at the Commonwealth Championships - the team as a whole put in a fantastic performance.”

England team manager Gary Lee described Neil’s progress as ‘tremendous’. He said: “Neil is a great inspiration and role model. I hope anyone who has the same condition looks at Neil and can see that it won’t stop you from competing or achieving your goal.”

A Cancer Research spokesman praised Neil’s actions in keeping a check on his health. She said: “Although testicular cancer is relatively rare, it is the most common cancer in young men between 15 and 45.

“Cancer Research UK advises men to check their testicles regularly and know what is normal for them.  If they notice any unusual lumps or bumps they shouldn’t panic - most aren’t cancerous - but they should get checked out by their GP. The good news is that treatment for the disease is very effective and the vast majority of patients are cured.”

For further information about the sport of lifesaving contact the Royal Life Saving Society UK by calling 01789 773 994, or email lifesaving@rlss.co.uk

ENDS

For further information contact:

Judy Smyth, Loughborough University Public Relations Office,
T: 01509 228697, E: J.L.Smyth@lboro.ac.uk

Nikki Cheung, The Bridge Group,
T: 024 7656 0440 E: n.cheung@bridge-group.co.uk

Notes to editors

  1. The Royal Life Saving Society UK is the governing body and leading provider of training and education in lifesaving, lifeguarding, water safety and life support skills in the UK. Each year its volunteers train approximately one million people in water safety, rescue techniques and life support, including 95 per cent of all pool and beach lifeguards.
  2. As a national charity, RLSS UK relies on public support.
  3. Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place it in the top flight of UK universities; the National Student Survey ranked Loughborough equal first among full-time students; and industry highlights the University in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 40% of Loughborough’s income is for research, and 60% for teaching. The University has been awarded five Queen's Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development; and for its outstanding work in evaluating and helping to develop social policy-related programmes.

    In 2006 Loughborough celebrates the 40th anniversary of its University Charter, awarded on 19 April 1966 in recognition of the excellence achieved by Loughborough College of Advanced Technology and its predecessor Colleges. Loughborough University of Technology was renamed Loughborough University in 1996.

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