Gary to mark year since end of cancer treatment by running in Race for Life
He has already beaten bowel cancer so 5km is going to be a walk in the park for Banbridge photographer Gary Crossan.
The 36-year-old snapper will be among the first men to take part in this year's Race for Life next month, but he'll also be marking over a year since he finished treatment for the life-threatening disease.
And he'll be joined by his 36-year-old wife Julie, a pharmacy technician, and their two daughters Rowen (four) and Reesa (two) on the Cancer Research UK challenge at Stormont Estate on May 26.
Reesa, their youngest child, was only a few months old when self-employed Gary, who works as a school, wedding and family photographer, first became ill in January 2017.
Following a long and turbulent journey through illness, treatment and recovery, the Co Down father-of-two is thrilled that he's in good enough health to be doing the Race for Life with his family.
"It's wonderful to be marking one year since completing my treatment for bowel cancer next month by taking part in this important event, which raises funds for life-saving research," he said.
Gary told the Belfast Telegraph the tell-tale sign that something was badly wrong health-wise was when he lost four stone in weight in just three months.
"Losing so much weight in a couple of months was a big sign for me that something wasn't right," he said.
"I was experiencing severe abdominal pain with irregular bowel movements and I visited my GP who carried out blood tests and then referred me for a colonoscopy.
"The pain became so severe I attended the emergency department in Craigavon Area Hospital in July that year and was admitted for suspected diverticular disease following a CT scan.
"It wasn't until Halloween that a camera test showed a white mass in my bowel. My consultant said it was a substantial tumour, the size of a tennis ball and wanted to operate as soon as possible.
"Although I had been unwell I was still pretty shocked, though very glad they could take action.
"I underwent surgery the following morning to remove the tumour and my large bowel and I was given a colostomy bag."
The cancer had spread slightly to his glands so just before Christmas 2017 Gary started chemotherapy at the Mandeville Unit in Craigavon and underwent eight cycles.
Gary, who runs his own business, praised the "excellent care" from the consultant and staff following surgery, including those at the Mandeville Unit who looked after all the family during the long months of treatment.
He completed his final session of chemotherapy on May 15, 2018, the day before his 36th birthday, and he said he's feeling very fortunate at having benefited from effective treatments.
"I've tried to normalise having a stoma and a colostomy bag as much as possible for the girls and I live my life as much as possible like I did before," he said.
"I'm also excited about doing Race For Life to raise funds to support the vital research that Cancer Research UK does to help more people beat cancer. I've been encouraging everyone I meet to sign up to take part too!"
Cancer Research UK's Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is a series of 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer by funding crucial research.
Thousands of people will descend on Stormont Estate to take part in the 5k and 10k events on Sunday, May 26, and on Saturday, September 7, the Pretty Muddy runs in Ormeau Park.
Frances Kippax-Geary, Cancer Research UK's Northern Ireland events manager, said the Race for Life events help raise money for research, including clinical trials which give patients in Northern Ireland access to the latest treatments.
"One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime," she said. "Sadly, this means nearly everyone is touched by the disease, either directly or through a loved one.
"To make a significant difference in the fight against cancer we need to harness as much energy and commitment as possible - so what better way than involving everyone in the community in our events."