There are many inspirational people who take part in the Clipper Race, and one of them is 2015-16 crew member Chris Drummond.
Chris, 63, from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, has made it his mission to raise awareness, particularly among men, about the importance of the early detection of cancer. A deeply personal mission, it was in fact during the Clipper Race that Chris discovered he had the illness.
Chris joined his IchorCoal team mates in New York in June 2016, ready for the Homecoming Leg to London. But just four days into the race to Derry-Londonderry, he had to be medevac’d to Halifax, Canada, after experiencing severe chest pains.
“The day before [the extraction] I started to have problems. I was drinking loads and sweating profusely. I didn’t sleep well when ‘off watch’ and the following day, in the early morning, our watch needed to get the spinnaker down and below deck.”
“Part way through the evolution I lost all strength, was breathless and experiencing severe pressure on my breastbone. I told crew mate Ian Kamcke I was in trouble and he let the Skipper know. Before I knew it, I was below deck receiving medical support from some of the crew.”
Chris has nothing but praise for the way his crew mates handled the situation, with the IchorCoal team, under the direction of Skipper Rich Gould, successfully and swiftly preparing for the extraction by the Search and Rescue Helicopter.
He explains: “The speed and efficiency of the crew in preparing the yacht for the Medivac stands out. This work was praised by the helicopter crew saying it was “ultra-quick” and professional. It took 14 minutes if I recall correctly. Skipper Rich, our medics Davina and Trudi, and all the crew did an amazing job in the circumstances.
“When I got back to Halifax the helicopter pilot said he could only have waited around for another five mins at most before turning back as he was right on his fuel limit, so any delay with boat prep would have meant the air lift being postponed.
Unfortunately, it was not the end of the ordeal for Chris. He spent the next two weeks at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax, with numerous tests revealing he had advanced secondary cancer of the liver. Even more tests back in the UK found the primary source in the oesophagus.
The diagnosis came as a huge shock to Chris and his family. Looking back to before the news however, Chris now fully admits he overlooked and ignored many signs and symptoms, and as someone with a long-held passion for all things automotive, in particular his beloved 1988 Porsche Carrera 3.2 backdate, he recognises the irony in the way he’s treated his car compared to himself. He’s now determined that through his awareness initiative, the ‘Race Against Time', others won’t do the same.
Chris finished chemotherapy treatment in mid-January but the advanced stage of his diagnosis means the cancer is unfortunately terminal and Doctors have advised that he has between six and twelve months left to live.
Rather than ask, ‘why me?’, Chris has bravely set about using his remaining time to raise as much awareness and money for Cancer Research UK as he can, in a language most men will understand.
“I did think about my Porsche whilst in Halifax, as blokes do! It got me thinking that I spend more time and money ensuring it’s in tip top condition than I do thinking about my health.”
With a message which may resonate strongly with all car, boat and vehicle enthusiasts, Chris adds: “I have the Porsche serviced each year and the service book stamped. Every time I drive the Porsche, I’ve an ear open for any unusual noises and an eye open for any issues with the bodywork.
“And what do I do if I find anything that’s not as it should be? I don’t hesitate in sorting it out and don’t begrudge spending any amount of money on it. Where’s the logic and or sense in that when compared with how I’ve looked after myself?” A routine annual service on a decent motor is going to cost you about £400 to £500. A private medical starts from about £450 and you won’t necessarily need one of them annually. A private MRI scan, should you need one, costs from about £200.
“Medically, don’t ignore symptoms that you think are unusual,” Chris stresses. “Go and get them assessed and if necessary, treated as a priority. Have regular medical check-ups and remember that prevention is better than cure. One in two of us will be affected by cancer in our lifetime so don’t be a statistic.
“This is the key message I want to get over and anyone who hears me talk about what happened should hopefully get the message loud and clear. Dark poo, chest pains, what appeared to be regular bouts of severe indigestion. Most were essentially ignored for about a year.
“I kept saying to myself I’d get these issues sorted when I finished the project I was working on and when I came back from the Clipper Race. I don’t know how many Rennies and bottles of Gaviscon I consumed over that period, but it must have been a good few. Hopefully mine is a lesson which others will learn from”
Chris will be attending many classic car shows across the UK with his Porsche, which has been nicknamed and rebranded as the RAT (Race Against Time) car.
If you would like to join Chris and see the RAT in all his glory, the pair will be visiting:
- Porsche Club GB Spring Clubhouse Open Day, Moreton-in-Marsh – Sunday 12th March
- Classic and Supercars, Sherborne Castle – 15th and 16th July
- Silverstone Classic (in PCGB area) – 28th to 30th July
- PCGB Summer Clubhouse Open Day, Moreton-in-Marsh – Sunday 20th August
- PCGB National Concours, Ragley Hall, Stratford upon Avon – 22nd and 23rd September
- PCGB Christmas Clubhouse Open Day, Moreton-in-Marsh – Sunday 3rd December
To learn more about Chris’ journey and fundraising efforts, visit his Facebook page here.Join The Race