John Rochford’s story, cancer, firefighting and Christie’s
In late December of 2007, I received a phone call from my younger brother, he sounded serious and wanted my advice. He was ill. He had been losing blood from his backside and had dramatically lost weight in the previous two months, which seemed very odd to me as I had the exact same thing happening to me. I had been 14.5 stone the previous summer and always maintained high levels of fitness, I also ate a good diet and enjoyed life, but right now I was 11.5 stone and had daily stomach cramps.
My brother, Stephen, presented himself at A&E that night and was quickly diagnoses with Crohn’s disease. I went to my GP with my symptoms and the news of my brother and was told that I may well have Crohn’s myself and that I should go for a colonoscopy to confirm this. From that point life was difficult, I was constantly tired and exhausted, continued to lose weight and was frequently visiting the toilet, up to 50 times a day.
In March 2008 I was finally sent for my colonoscopy only to be given a diagnosis of bowel cancer and with a pretty grim prognosis. This was a shock that neither I or my family hadn’t seen coming I was getting married in August and I was scared that I might not be around.
Receiving news of having cancer is unlike any other news I had had to come to terms with in my life. I was 34 and facing months, if not years of treatment and surgery and due to the position of my cancer I would need an ileostomyand a bag for an unknown period of time. On top of this, it was clear I would need radiotherapy and chemotherapy to fight the disease.
What followed all of this news would change and shape my life forever more, it is even easy to say that for me that cancer was a positive force in my life. It taught me to think the best and live for the moment.
My working life had taken me around the world serving in the Army and I was currently employed in the Fire Service. Throughout my service I had been injured on several occasions with various knee and ankle issues. I had always enjoyed this period of getting back to fitness, learning more about my body and the challenge of return to play. It gave me an insight to what I may like to do in the future, and indeed in 2001 when I left the forces I studied to become a personal trainer and sports therapist. I went on to run my own successful business and when I joined the Fire Service in 2003 I was able to continue this side by side with my new role.
During cancer I realised that I wanted more from life, it felt like more than my health had changed. I wanted to give back to people after being so graciously cared for during my illness and I wanted to raise awareness of the positive aspects of cancer. I read books on cancer survivorship and thought of ways that I could be a positive role model to my family, friends and cancer community. I decided to give triathlon ago and went on to several years of competing in all distances, I even took up ultra-running as my childhood background had been in long distance running.
After a bout of runner’s knee in 2011 I decided that I needed to get back into therapy, the fire service wasn’t fulfilling my expectations in life anymore and I was keen to further my education. I enrolled in a higher level sports therapy course and from that point I have barely put a book down. I understood that getting into top level sport as a career was a big ask, so I set about getting qualified and taking any opportunity that presented itself, and that is when I met Doug Jones in March 2016. Doug had asked through a website for volunteer’s to give him a hand for an afternoon at a place local to me, Ossur UK. My wife had just had our second child and I remembered thinking that the timing for me doing a bit of voluntary work couldn’t have been any worse timed, but something just felt right. The afternoon went really well and Doug seemed like a great bloke, and I left it there.
In September of that year I managed to get myself a bank roll helping out with the performance team at the Manchester Institute of Health and Performance (MIHP), which I was thrilled with. The following week Doug called me and asked me to meet him at MIHP as he had an opportunity that may interest me. He told me about his new company Altius Healthcare, and that he too would be working out of MIHP as well as other practice’s around Manchester. I willingly told Doug that I would love to be a part of what he was building and have never looked back.
By the end of last year I had left the Fire Service and had set up my own business as well as working with Doug and the team at Altius. The move has changed my life and I now work with a variety of clients with various individual needs at some of the finest clinics and facilities in Manchester. The icing on the cake for me is that we have recently started to work with patients from the Christie Hospitalthat are overcoming cancer, it’s an opportunity that allows me to give straight back into the system that saved my life