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Ironman champ in fight for life as ‘bad back’ turns out to be incurable cancer

Fighter: Peter McCleave with his two sons Max, 8, and Seb, 5 PICTURE: SWNS

AN IRONMAN champion is fighting for his life after his ‘bad back’ turned out to be incurable cancer.

Peter McCleave, 40, suffered from an achy back after competing in the gruelling Ironman Wales Triathlon challenge — but put it down to training for the epic challenge.

But the banker was actually suffering from myeloma, a cancer that develops from cells in the bone marrow, which was attacking his bones.

He was officially diagnosed six months after completing the race — one of the toughest triathlons in the world — and embarked on courses of chemotherapy.

But the dad-of-two has been given seven years to live unless he finds a stem cell donor that matches his mixed Chinese-Portuguese heritage.

Competitive: Peter taking part in the Ironman Wales Triathlon challenge in September 2016

Peter from Bunbury, Cheshire, said: ‘The day my GP diagnosed with myeloma, my head just descended into an unknown fog and I didn’t know what it meant; it was brutal.

‘I almost started laughing — the idea of the enormity of this illness was too far out of the remit of how I saw my life shaping up.

‘Questions were also running through my head and I was asking myself, “Is there any cure for it?”

‘But when the doctors told me what it meant, it was a massive shock — on the Richter scale of life earthquakes, this was a building-crushing, city-demolishing 10.

‘The doctors told me that the disease had seeded into my body. I just couldn’t believe it.

‘After going home, the next 48 hours was the worst of my life, after telling my wife while constantly getting used to the fact that what was happening to me was actually life-threatening.

‘The myeloma has left my immune system compromised so I now need someone who is a genetic match to donate some of his or her stem cells, which can be transplanted into my blood.

‘While my Myeloma is incurable, the revolutionary treatment will give me a new immune system, which would be completely life-changing.

‘I find myself fighting internally with what they’re telling me and what I’m willing to happen. Everyone has it in their heart to help but then life gets in the way.’

Close: Peter with sons Max and Seb, along with wife Jenny

With hindsight, super-fit Peter started to show signs of feeling ill while training for the Ironman Wales Triathlon challenge, which he completed in September 2016.

It consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon.

‘I was undergoing an intense and rigorous cycle of training for Ironman Wales and was in the best possible body shape and making the most of my life,’ he said.

But after the challenge, he suffered from backache, a severe bout of sepsis and pneumonia.

He’s done it: Peter crosses the finishing line in the Ironman Wales Triathlon challenge in September 2016

‘I was shocked to find out that, actually, my body woes had been the development of a nasty condition that was attacking my body and essentially breaking down my bones,’ Peter said.

The 40-year-old was rushed to the Countess of Chester Hospital, where he was checked over by doctors.

After spending four days in hospital, Peter was discharged but was soon back for further scans after experiencing further breathing difficulties.

Peter said: ‘I went back for two MRI scans and that’s when the doctors discovered some lesions on my bones in my body.’

Blood tests then revealed he had cancer in March 2017, and he was given seven years to live.

He had three rounds of chemotherapy at Countess of Chester Hospital.

‘I was undergoing treatment and it was extremely intense, my hair stayed intact for the first and third rounds of it, but I did lose it after the second.

‘Although, this was to the delight of my kids as I looked like their favorite Newcastle FC player Jonjo Shelvey — thankfully they don’t know the full extent of the potential ramifications this condition has.’

Peter underwent an autologous stem cell transplant in May.

‘The process involves removing stem cells from my body, then I’m given a big zap of chemo before they’re reinserted,’ he said.

‘They will then hopefully regrow in the bone marrow and give me a long period of remission.’

Peter’s best chance at outliving the seven-year prediction is a stem cell donor and he has since launched a campaign to find the perfect match.

‘My family is Macauan, which is half Chinese and Portuguese, so finding a donor will be a real challenge, but I am determined to find one,’ Peter said.

Peter is also now training for Ironman 70.2 in Weymouth this weekend and added: ‘I am ready, nothing is going to hold me back.’

To find out more, visit petermccleave.co.uk