Beating bowel cancer together

Climbing heights for Greg

Tuesday 7 December 2021

When Greg Baker was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer at the age of 27, his partner, Ellen, and sister Niamh, took on two separate challenges to raise money for us. Together, they've raised over £24,000.

Ellen Nelson – TrekFest 2021

Ellen said: "My partner, Greg, didn't experience many of the common symptoms associated with bowel cancer. Changes to his bowel habits had been explained away as possible food intolerances, and it wasn't until Greg presented at A&E with severe stomach pains that an intestinal obstruction was found.

"In February 2021, Greg had emergency surgery to remove the obstruction (which would later be confirmed to be a cancerous tumour) and to fit a colostomy bag. From April until September, Greg completed six months of intensive chemotherapy.

"Being diagnosed at such a young age has spurred on our friends and family to raise money for Bowel Cancer UK. On 18 September 2021, myself, Greg, and a group of our friends took advantage of Greg's 'off-chemo week' and took part in the TrekFest 2021 challenge. A group of 18 of us completed the 25km trek through the Brecon Beacons and climbed to the summit of Pen Y Fan.

"We made a weekend of it and stayed at a local farmhouse, and the trek itself went well. It was a lot more difficult than we had expected, and in all honesty none of us had trained that hard to complete the trek. The climb to the summit was so much steeper than we could have imagined! We had expected the trek to take about six hours, but instead we completed it in around eight and a half hours.

"With such a large group of us, smaller groups broke off throughout the trek. We would meet up at different points for a rest and to be able to support each other as we continued. There was a smaller group of us at the back who thought we'd miss the last checkpoint, so decided to take our time walking back down from the summit. That meant that most of the group ended up in a local pub waiting for us to catch-up so that we could all cross the finish line together.

"During the trek it all felt pretty horrendous, and Greg and I had a conversation about whether we'd look back on the day with fond memories or not. We thought we'd remember it as a really hard day, but we look back at it now with so much pride. For Greg to complete the trek was such a huge achievement, especially when six months ago he could only take a few steps post-surgery.

"It was quite emotional when we crossed the finish line. There were mixed emotions between being completely exhausted, proud of ourselves, and so impressed with and pleased for Greg. Myself and two of the girls we completed the trek with had a little hug and cry together waiting in line for our post-trek massage. We were just so incredibly proud of Greg and thankful that he has been able to get back to a place where he can do these things with us. He is such an inspiration.

"Our initial fundraising goal was £2,000. We increased this little by little as we received more donations, and by the day of the trek our target was £12,000. We hadn't quite reached this before the trek, however throughout the day of the trek and over the next couple of weeks, we received more donations and have ended with a total of £19,847 (including gift aid)."

Niamh Baker – Crib Goch, Snowdon

Greg's younger sister, Niamh, has done an incredible job at raising funds for us, and to date has raised a total of £4,421 (including gift aid). Niamh climbed to the summit of Snowdon, via Crib Goch, in torrential rain and awful weather conditions. Niamh was accompanied by family friend Lizzie Rhodes, who has completed the Crib Goch route several times. Lizzie supported Niamh, a novice rock climber, throughout the day, negotiating torrential rain and poor visibility.

Niamh trained for the climb at her local rock-climbing centre, but nothing could prepare her for the scramble across Crib Goch and completing the climb in the rain and fog. It took Niamh and Lizzie five hours to reach the top of Snowdon and climb back down again. Along the way, Niamh and Lizzie met other hikers taking on the climb, one of which was a solo climber from America. The three of them completed the rest of the climb together, finding each other's support important in keeping them going and avoiding 'hitting the wall' and wanting to give up.

Niamh said: "The photos don't do justice to just how bad the weather was at the top. We couldn't see what was coming up in front of us, and a few times we thought we were at the end of the ridge only to see another peak breaking through the clouds. We'd have to gear ourselves up again to keep going so that we could reach the summit. I started off confident that the weather would change and began the hike in shorts, but the weather never eased. We had to do a quick outfit change on the top of Knife Edge, but at least no one could see us!

"I'm so glad that I took on the challenge, especially with the awful weather. It made it even more of an achievement to have completed it, and we really pushed ourselves to keep going and not back out. Knowing that so many people had faith in us and had donated spurred me on even more. Not only did I complete this climb for everyone who supported me, but I also completed this for Greg in the hope that these donations will help Greg and others going through the same thing. I'd definitely recommend it to others and would go back up in a heartbeat, but perhaps on a nicer day!"

Greg's older sister, Helen, plans to take on a challenge in 2022. Helen has considered taking on the brave challenge of a skydive for us next year, a tandem skydive from 10,000 feet. Greg, Niamh, and Ellen have been encouraging Helen to sign up.

If you'd like to contribute to the Baker family fundraising efforts, please visit one of their Just Giving pages:

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