Sailor diagnosed with cancer at 19 celebrates getting all-clear by taking last chemo tablet on top of Ben Nevis

Sailor diagnosed with cancer at 19 celebrates getting all-clear by taking last chemo tablet on top of Ben Nevis

A sailor who hiked and kayaked through his cancer treatment celebrated getting the all-clear by taking his final chemo tablet on top of Ben Nevis.

Ciaran Daniel, 23, from Hull, was just 19 when he was told he had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, an aggressive form of cancer that affects white blood cells.

Working for the Royal Navy in the Persian Gulf, Ciaran was flown by private jet back to the UK where he underwent three years of treatment.

And since receiving the all-clear in May this year, Ciaran celebrated by taking his last chemo tablet on top of Ben Nevis.

He said: “Even while I was having intravenous chemo, I was still out and doing active things that you probably shouldn’t do on that sort of treatment, but I couldn’t stay still.

“I was climbing, kayaking, surfing and hiking. It kept me occupied and upbeat during the tough time.”

Ciaran took his last chemo tablet at the top of Ben Nevis (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ciaran took his last chemo tablet at the top of Ben Nevis (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “When I reached the top of Ben Nevis in May, I got a reminder on my phone to take my medication, which is when I realised I had just one chemo tablet left.

“It was the perfect place to end my treatment.”

At 19 Ciaran initially brushed off the symptoms he was experiencing.

He said: “I was working for the Royal Navy in the Persian Gulf, undertaking anti-piracy and anti-drug operations.

“It was a physically demanding job so when I noticed that I was bruising a lot, I just assumed it was due to the nature of my role.

“I was experiencing a lot of tiredness too but that was easily explained by how demanding my job was.”

Ciaran was working in the Persian Gulf when he started to notice he was bruising a lot (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ciaran was working in the Persian Gulf when he started to notice he was bruising a lot (Collect/PA Real Life)

It was not until Ciaran noticed blood in his urine that he sought medical advice.

He said: “I was sent to a private hospital in Dubai where they did blood tests.

“When the results came back, they didn’t know how I’d even managed to walk into the building, my blood levels were so low.

“In hindsight, I think it was the fact that I was very healthy and physically fit that had kept me going.”

Ciaran had a bone marrow biopsy which revealed his devastating diagnosis.

He said: “They broke the news to me on New Years Eve 2018, that I had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

“Because of the drugs I had for the biopsy, I was pretty out of it when I rang my family and I told them I had leprosy. My doctor took the phone off me and had to break the news to them.”

Ciaran was working in the Navy when he was diagnosed with cancer (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ciaran was working in the Navy when he was diagnosed with cancer (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “I remember seeing the Burj Khalifa from my hospital room lit up for the New Year and thinking about how it hadn’t turned out to be the day I’d planned.

“At 19 you think you’re invincible so to find out I had cancer was completely shocking.”

On January 4, 2019, Ciaran was flown by private jet from Dubai to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where he was met by his family.

He then spent seven weeks at the hospital undergoing intensive chemotherapy.

Ciaran said: “My parents were staying in Fisher House accommodation on hospital grounds so I could see them daily.

“I was having chemo intravenously, through tablets and spinal injections. It was intense and, at first, it wiped me out. I just slept constantly.”

Ciaran says the staff at Teenage Cancer Trust helped to save his life (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ciaran says the staff at Teenage Cancer Trust helped to save his life (Collect/PA Real Life)

After seven weeks, Ciaran moved into the Fisher House accommodation, visiting the hospital daily for treatment.

He said: “I stayed there until October 2019, when I was finally able to go back to Hull, returning for monthly appointments while continuing the chemo through tablets at home.”

Ciaran’s chemotherapy treatment came to an end in May this year, after he got the all-clear from cancer.

Ciaran climbed Ben Nevis in May 2022, where he took his last chemotherapy tablet (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ciaran climbed Ben Nevis in May 2022, where he took his last chemotherapy tablet (Collect/PA Real Life)

He said: “A friend and I had planned to go to Scotland for the weekend to do some walking. We brought all our hiking gear with us, even though we weren’t planning to do anything strenuous.

“But we reached the foot of Ben Nevis, looked at each other and said, ‘why not?’”

Ciaran and his friend hiked up the 1,345m-high mountain in the Scottish Highlands and, reaching the top, Ciaran heard his phone ping.

He said: “It was a reminder to take my medication. I had just one chemo tablet left and figured the top of Ben Nevis was just as good of a place to finish my treatment as any.

“My friend filmed me taking my last tablet, which marked the end of my three-year journey with cancer.”

Since then, Ciaran’s scans have come back clear and now he is raising awareness for Teenage Cancer Trust.

Ciaran was flown by private jet in January 2019 from Dubai to a hospital in Birmingham (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ciaran was flown by private jet in January 2019 from Dubai to a hospital in Birmingham (Collect/PA Real Life)

He said: “The Teenage Cancer Trust unit was spot on, and the staff helped save my life.

“They’ve also been a great support for me, helping me through things that I didn’t want to bother my family with.

“Teenage Cancer Trust is an amazing charity that has helped me so much, and I want to raise awareness of what they do.”

For more information, visit: www.teenagecancertrust.org/donate