An inspirational Belfast personal trainer, who was given just five years to live three years ago, says his cancer diagnosis was a blessing that made him appreciate life and realise time was precious.
Cornwall-born Ollie Jowett (24) received the devastating news he had a malignant brain tumour when he was just 21 years old.
He says that after the initial shock of his diagnosis wore off, he was left feeling grateful that five years had been mentioned instead of five weeks or five months - and he vowed to tap into the positive mindset he had been teaching his personal training clients to deal with his own situation.
Now, the 24-year-old, who is single and lives in south Belfast, says his mission is to help people live healthier and happier lives through his Health and Happiness Academy and his podcast, The Health and Happiness Show.
"When I was still living in England I was getting really bad headaches," he says. "I went to the doctor before I moved to Northern Ireland. The headaches were awful and each time they would come with a different variation - a tension headache, a cluster headache. I knew in my gut that it was something more.
"I moved over to Belfast in April 2017 to become a personal trainer. Eventually, I got a referral for an MRI scan. In September 2017 I was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. The prognosis was five years.
"There I was, 21 years old sitting in a consultant's room being told I had cancer. I was working as a personal trainer - it's not really the sort of news you expect. I was shocked.
"Surgery wasn't really a valid option for me, given where the brain tumour is located and the risks involved such as death, going blind and losing my speech.
"The likes of chemotherapy and radiotherapy weren't really options either because it was just deemed so risky and I'm so young. I was told that at such a young age, 10 years down the line there could be complications if I had radiation put into my brain or even with surgery there was such a big probability of something going wrong.
"I had to make a decision and so I thought that the safest thing was just watch and wait. I have MRI scans done regularly and I was told that the moment they detect a change in behaviour or size then they will intervene with surgery."
"I was told that the five-year prognosis was the best case scenario, which would get me to the age of 26. When you're so young it's obviously so scary. You have your life planned out - you're going to get married, you're going to have a family and you're going to have a meaningful career. And suddenly all of that is in jeopardy.
"There was definitely an element of fear at the start."
Ollie received steadfast support from his family back home in Cornwall - mum Michelle and sisters Zoey and Emily. But he resolved to stay in Northern Ireland and continue his dream of working as a personal trainer.
"Moving back home wasn't an option for me as it would have been admitting defeat to my cancer," he says. "I moved to Belfast to pursue my passion, with or without cancer. I haven't felt isolated as I'm lucky to have great interaction with my clients and speak regularly to my family."
After the initial shock, Ollie began to think positively and determined to look forward to the future.
"Some people are given five weeks or five months, so I considered myself to be very lucky," he says. "To be completely honest, I think that cancer has been my biggest blessing because it taught me the value of time. That was the change that happened in my mindset. I thought, how many of us just waste time? Be that in a job we hate or a relationship we are unhappy in."
Ollie drew on his experience as a personal trainer to help build up his own positive mindset.
"Having worked as a personal trainer, helping people lose weight for a number of years, I had learned about mindsets," he explains. "Losing weight is a mindset and I had to apply my own mindset to my cancer diagnosis.
"Truthfully, I think it has led to where I am today. I believe that many people give up when they hear they have cancer - even before they are given a prognosis. The moment you lose the belief that you can beat it is the moment that you've lost."
Despite his positive outlook, Ollie says that at times his diagnosis feels like a "ticking time bomb" - but he is not giving up hope.
"We have all seen the films where there is a time bomb and you have to find the code," he says. "That has been my pursuit for the last couple of years, diagnosing what that code looks like and trying to diffuse the bomb.
"My aim is to keep going as long as I can until a cure can be found. What cancer taught me was to re-evaluate my entire lifestyle. Of course, I was eating healthily, but we can all be healthier. I dived deep into the science of nutrition and holistic health and looked at all the alternatives that are said to aid your health. I have tried a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, hyperthermia therapy, IV vitamin C and an anti cancer supplement protocol. They are very much alternative treatments and they're like taking supplements - they don't replace your cancer treatment but act as a supplement to support your fight against the disease."
Ollie says that spending time on the Royal Victoria Hospital's cancer wards helped give him a sense of perspective.
"You think, okay, my situation might be bad, but someone always has it worse," he says. "And honestly, that level of perspective just changes your life. It really does. It just gave me an element of gratitude.
"Mindset is everything. I refuse to feel sorry for myself. The reality is that everyone has their own problems. So yes, I have this big problem on my hands, but everyone has problems. It doesn't have to be cancer, it could be mental health, it could be losing your job because of coronavirus - whatever."
Ollie is awaiting another scan this month and is hopeful that his tumour has remained contained.
"I wouldn't technically be out of the woods yet," he admits. "But so far there have been no changes in the size of the tumour and it's what they call 'stable'. The doctors have increased the time between scans which is, in my situation, the best case scenario."
Ollie says he is enormously grateful for the response after he told his story in the Belfast Telegraph when he was first diagnosed, when he appealed for help to raise money for alternative therapies.
"I reached out to the Belfast Telegraph a few years back asking for help to raise money for alternative treatments that were not funded by the NHS," he says. "Given the risk associated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, these treatments were my only other option to explore. Of course, I have to say they are not proven to treat the cancer, but it's just that very holistic health side of things.
"The story in the Belfast Telegraph helped raise £21,000 for alternative therapies which I hoped would keep me alive.
Over a couple of years that money raised funded the alternative treatments. I am indebted to the public today.
"My health today is thanks to the love and support from everyone when I reached out through the Belfast Telegraph - it was the public that gave me the self belief to keep on fighting when I wanted to give up.
"I believe that it's thanks to everyone's generosity that I'm still here today. And that is why I am on this mission to give back. I am very much now trying to return the favour and help other people live happier and healthier lives."
Ollie is still working as an online mindset coach and says he will continue to strive to inspire people to find happiness.
"I wouldn't say I was anyone's inspiration," he says. "If I can inspire someone, then I will be very satisfied with the way that I'm living my life and the work that I'm pursuing. The aim is to inspire someone whether that is with the podcast, a piece of content or with a client. My aim is to not give up, not settle for less and always pursue happiness. Everyone deserves happiness."
Currently writing a book on his journey which will be out in 2021, Ollie says he wants to be remembered as someone who never gave up.
"I think, how do I want to leave the world one day?" he says. "Whether that is in five years or 50 years, and I hope that it's the latter, a book is evergreen and will continue to inspire people through the test of time. My book is in development, I'm aiming to release it next year, and that is very exciting.
"Probably like everyone, I took time for granted. I never thought this would happen to me. We are all aware that one in two people is going to get cancer. But really we think we are going to be the lucky half of that statistic, until it happens to you. And it changes your perspective. That is the positive you have to take out of the negative.
"I would never, ever wish anyone to get cancer, but it just makes you realise that we all have a limited time on this earth. We have to make the most of it - time is invaluable and this something that I hope everyone can learn in some way.
"I want my legacy to be that I was someone who helped people to live healthier and happier lives by changing the way that they think and feel - their mindsets. I want to be remembered as someone who refused to give up and who did not settle for less in life.
"We all deserve what we want, and if we are willing to work hard for it, we can absolutely have it."
Find out more about Ollie's Health and Happiness Academy at www.olliejowett.com