My name is Rhys, a first time dad blogging about my adventures and experiences of being a parent. [email protected]

Fitness instructor thanks staff for their care following cancer diagnosis

Gaynor Hulland

A fitness instructor battling lung cancer has raised £1,000 to thank staff for their care during her ongoing treatment.

Gaynor Hulland has spent recent months being treated at the South West Wales Cancer Centre, in Singleton Hospital, after receiving her diagnosis in July last year.

A few months earlier, the 66-year-old from Swansea had started to notice she was becoming breathless when walking up the stairs to her gym classes.

At the time, Gaynor had been running nine cardio and weights based classes a week at the city’s LC leisure centre.

“My symptoms first started in the February where I was getting breathless on my way up the stairs,” she said.

“I was also feeling tired but as I was doing so many classes in a week, I was naturally tired anyway so thought it was down to that.

“I have been a fitness instructor for 13 years and before that I was a marathon runner. I have completed five London Marathons and some triathlons too.

“When I started feeling breathless I thought ‘this isn’t right’ so went to my GP and was referred for a bronchoscopy and a lung biopsy. I also had to go for several CT scans.”

Other symptoms of lung cancer can include chest pain, coughing that gets worse or doesn’t go away, wheezing, coughing up blood and weight loss with no known cause.

“I was told I had stage four cancer and it had spread to my brain,” Gaynor added.

“They said if I wasn’t as fit as I am, I would’ve had weeks to live.

“I’ve never smoked in my life, so when I had my diagnosis you could’ve blown me over with a feather.

“I was extremely shocked but thought ‘I’ve got to get up and get on with it. I can’t give in to it’.

“By the end of that week, after receiving the results, I started my treatment.”

Gaynor began receiving immunotherapy treatment, which helps the immune system recognise and attack cancer cells, and takes one tablet a day which is used to treat non-small cell lung cancer.

“The drug I’m on suppresses and reduces the tumours to stop them from spreading and growing,” she said.

“I used to worry about it spreading. Every ache or pain I would get, no matter what it was, I would think it was the cancer spreading.

“I had lots of miniscule nodules on my brain at the time I was diagnosed.

“I found out three days before Christmas that I’ve got nothing in my brain anymore.

“There has also been a significant reduction in my lungs. The nodules that are there have got smaller during my treatment.”

Gaynor initially had to see her oncologist every four weeks but, thanks to the reduction, that has now been extended to every eight weeks.

Alongside her treatment, she was determined to continue with her fitness regime and still made sure she ran the majority of her classes.

She added: “I carried on with my classes and dropped them down to seven a week.

“I made sure my appointments were timed around them.

“You wake up in the mornings and know that you’ve got to go and teach a class. It gets you out of bed.

“It has helped me through my treatment and keeps me going.

“I forget the cancer is there sometimes. I look in the mirror and think to myself ‘I’ve got cancer’.”

It was Gaynor’s friend Wenda James-Rowe who came up with the idea of organising a charity event for her.

In October, a ladies’ lunch and charity fashion event was held at Morgan’s Hotel, in Swansea, where money was raised through a raffle – as well as an online fundraising page.

£4,400 was raised in total, with £1,000 donated to the South West Wales Cancer Centre. The rest of the money was split between charities including Maggie’s and Macmillan.

“We decided to raise money after my diagnosis for the care I have received,” Gaynor said.

“I wanted to give money to the oncology department at Singleton Hospital because without the treatment I have received and the drug I’m on, I wouldn’t be getting better.

“I wanted to say thank you to everyone.

“I think I’m a very lucky person as I have a magnificent support network with my family and friends.

“My positivity has definitely been my superpower. I’m not someone who would give up, ever.

“My message to others would be to stay positive and not to sit down and dwell on it. As bad as it may be, there’s always a bright side.

“Staying positive is the biggest super power you can ever have.”

Cathy Stevens, Swansea Bay Health Charity’s fundraising officer, said: “Gaynor has an incredible personality and her positive attitude is infectious.

“I hope people read Gaynor’s story and gain something positive from it.

“This incredible donation will make such a difference to our patients and our staff.

“Money raised for the Cancer Centre is used for patient care and comfort, along with additional specialist equipment. We also support specialist training for our doctors, nurses and all other health care staff.

“If you feel inspired to fundraise for us or want more information on the work we do, please contact the fundraising team at [email protected].”