Chris Lenon’s world was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 17.
It is for Mr Lenon, now 22, his late grandfather, and others lost to cancer that family and friends walk in the Relay For Life each year.
After noticing a small lump on his neck, Mr Lenon went to the doctor and was told it was probably a harmless fatty lump, but underwent an ultrasound and a biopsy.
It was then found Mr Lenon had stage three Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.
Another biopsy found the cancer had not spread to his bone marrow, but Mr Lenon still had to undergo six months of chemotherapy, including an intensive two weeks that left him so ill he could not keep water down, followed by radiation therapy.
Mr Lenon’s grandfather Jim, with whom he shared a birthday and was close, underwent cancer treatment at the same time, with the two even receiving chemotherapy together.
Tragically the older Mr Lenon did not survive the disease and passed away two years ago, so for the Lenons’ team, Relay For Life is as much about honouring his memory as it is celebrating Chris’ recovery.
In the midst of his treatment Mr Lenon had his 18th birthday and despite his fears that no one would want to attend the party of someone with cancer, about 100 people showed up to celebrate and support him.
Mr Lenon said he still appreciated everyone who came along and helped make him feel normal for a night.
He still has check-ups every six months, but next January will mark five years since he finished his last round of treatment.
He has since married his wife, Leisa, and manages a local gym.
His mother Kim said Relay For Life was a very emotional event for the family, but was also a great occasion for them to get together given all they had been through.
“I feel so proud walking in the carers walk with him,” Mrs Lenon said.
In last year’s event members of the team completed 267 laps and raised $2500 in the event, and they hope do even better this year.
Words: Natalie Croxon Photograph: Darren Howe