A FATHER-of-two with a rare and incurable cancer is to take on a cycle challenge ahead of a potentially life-changing stem cell transplant.

Andrew Slorance, 49, was first diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma, a member of the non-Hodgkins lymphoma family in 2015 and had since gone on to have one transplant.

However, while he has been on a cocktail of drugs to help suppress the cancer, which is incurable, he needs to undergo a second transplant – this time with a stem cell donor transplant.

His operation is now scheduled to go ahead later this year following a slight delay with the impact of coronavirus, but before then he will be saddling up for a 300-mile bike challenge in aid of Cancer Research UK next month.

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“I didn’t think I would see my 50th birthday at one point following my diagnosis, but with developments in medicine and science I have benefited,” said Mr Slorance. “The cycle challenge is a way of giving back and helping to raise money for much-needed research which could save lives. It is also a chance for me to get out on the bike and keep me fit for my next operation.”

Mr Slorance thought he was just recovering from a gastric flu in summer 2015, but after still feeling tired and sluggish he decided to get checked out.

“Following tests I was told I had a rare and incurable cancer called mantle cell lymphoma. By December, I was undertaking a gruelling four-month programme of chemotherapy before a life-prolonging stem cell transplant in spring 2016. At the time of diagnosis, the average life expectancy for MCL wasn’t great, but science and luck have been on my side.”

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Last year, Mr Slorance relapsed but has benefited from a new drug that is controlling his current cancer ahead of his big operation in January next year.

He added: “It won’t last forever, though, and I need to face another stem cell transplant, this time the much more riskier donor or allogeneic transplant. If it goes well it could prove curative. But if it fails, well then that is another story. The drugs won’t control the cancer forever so it is about getting to the point to make sure you can get the benefit of the drugs before going for the transplant.

“With this one being a donor transplant there could be more chance of rejection like with any organ transplant, but the long-term benefits could be much greater. They can’t say absolutely at the stage that the transplant is curative.”

While waiting for his transplant date, Mr Slorance had found focusing on the cycle challenge and it has been all the more enjoyable being able to get out as shielding restrictions eased. He has been working from home in his role for the Scottish Government and had to take precautions in the family home.

Mr Slorance added: “With four of us in the house we had to look at ways of socially distancing.

HeraldScotland:

“I was sleeping and working in a bedroom and judged my meal times separately from the family. It was great to get out in the garden, but even then I would have my own little area while the others would have theirs.

“It has certainly been hard in these times when no-one has been able to hug one another.”

Mr Slorance has been building up his mileage daily and is attempting to cover the 300 miles this month in case he can’t manage in the official month of September.

“After three months of shielding I finally got out for exercise on June 18. I’ve bought myself an electric bike. Not as a ‘cheat’ but because it helps to neutralise the many hills around my Edinburgh home.

“The pills I am taking have a side-effect that can cause joint pain. I have also been sleeping on a bed settee since March. Those things combined have left me with excruciatingly painful and uncomfortable knees and shoulders.

“Without the extra help of an electric bike there’s no way I’d be able to manage the effort needed to tackle the climbs, but I do put a lot of effort in on the flat.”

Already he has been building up from seven miles a day while returning to his commute and has already raised more than £3,000.

Mr Slorance said: “I hope I can raise as much money as I can for Cancer Research UK. Charities have been affected by lockdown and raising money has not been easy. In the past I have raised money for Maggie’s Centres, but this seemed a good way to help.

“I already owe my extended life to cancer research and new treatments, but the median survival rate for MCL has only increased to six to seven years, so I could really benefit from more scientific advances.”

To donate go to fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/andrews-cycle-300-fundraising-page-202