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Fighting fit rugby ace Alan Whitten out to inspire after cancer battle

By Nevin Farrell

Published 25/01/2016

Alan Whitten
Alan Whitten

An inspirational sportsman has spoken of how he battled back to full fitness after being diagnosed with leukaemia - and how he has helped to propel his side to the top of the league.

Alan Whitten plays for Belfast club Instonians and was a key member of the team that beat Cooke 22-3 on Friday night to send them top of Kukri Qualifying League One.

In a few weeks the 25-year-old, who was capped once for Ulster, will hope to be part of the Instonians team bidding for glory when they take on Enniscorthy in the All-Ireland Junior Cup Final.

Macmillan Cancer Support is confident Alan's story will help encourage others going through treatment or recovery to get more involved with physical activity. Alan was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2011.

He says regaining his fitness levels after a bone marrow transplant was far more difficult than he'd anticipated.

Describing himself as "a big lad", he says his weight loss through treatment was very dramatic.

In all, he lost over five stones.

"Doctors had warned me that I'd find it difficult walking any distance, but it was still a shock to the system," he said. "I didn't manage any exercise while recovering in hospital because I had no energy. And, even when I got home, I had to pause for breath on the stairs, or walking up the slightest of hills.

"I was lucky, though. My family and friends were very encouraging and just told me not to overdo it. It took me well over a year to get back to my former fitness level.

"My message to others would be: 'You just have to try to beat it yourself'. There is no point in getting depressed."

Macmillan Cancer Support is engaged in a physical activity strategy for Northern Ireland called Move More. It is working with local organisations, including some councils, to develop physical activity programmes for people affected by cancer.

The charity has also developed a Get Active, Feel Good exercise DVD tailored to people living with cancer.

For more information on physical activity and cancer call 08088080000 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk

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