William Black will be competing to raise awareness of stem cell transplantation
A Dunfermline man who received a lifesaving saving stem cell transplant is competing as part of blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan’s team at the Westfield Health British Transplant Games in Newport, South Wales.
The Westfield Health British Transplant Games is an annual event - this year being held from Thursday 25 July – Sunday 28 July in Newport, South Wales - in which people who have received lifesaving organ or stem cell transplants take part in a series of Olympic-style events.
In March 2009, William Black was diagnosed with a rare disorder of the immune system most commonly found in infants known as Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH).
William’s Consultant told him that his was the first case of HLH in an adult he had ever seen and believed it to be the first case found in Scotland.
William was told that he’d need to have a stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor. Fortunately, Anthony Nolan was able to find two perfect matches for William.
In September 2009, William had a stem cell transplant and was cured of his HLH. Since then, William has taken on a series of gruelling cycling challenges to raise money for Anthony Nolan.
This month, William will take part in the British Transplant Games for the fifth time – and after just missing out on medals by coming fourth last year, he’s even more determined to arrive back in Dunfermline decorated in gold.
This year is significant as William will be marking a milestone in his recovery.
The 32-year-old solution architect, who only got into competing after his transplant said: ‘I love competing and celebrating life after my transplant. It’s a life I wouldn’t have had without my transplant. I think the event will mean more to me this year than ever due to celebrating a major milestone of 10 years post-transplant.
‘I’d like to at least make bronze in one event, Cycling Time Trial or Road Race’ he added, ‘however my eyes are firmly set on a gold medal. I’ve never won gold at the games and to win gold on my anniversary year would really make me extremely happy.’
William will be competing in the British Transplant Games as part of a sixteen-strong Team Anthony Nolan.
William said: ‘It’s amazing to be part of Team Anthony Nolan. There’s so much support from the team both staff members and competitors. You’re made to feel so welcome and although the team is spread across the UK.
‘I've very passionate about the work Anthony Nolan do, so to be part of the team taking part in the games means a great deal to me.’ He added.
Remarkably, after William has participated in the Games he will travel to Gateshead to take part in the World Transplant Games taking place 17 – 24 August.
Reflecting on being selected to represent his country William said: ‘It’s a great honour, putting it simply. It’s a fantastic and rewarding feeling to have performed well enough to be selected for Team GB and I’m fortunate enough to be in a good position to have been selected and able to compete. The world games are on home soil and not far from me this year, which is hugely beneficial.
‘I’ve never competed in an event at world level before so, I’m very nervous about my first time competing in the games.
‘I’m looking forward to the opening ceremony and meeting recipients, donors and families from all over the world that have come to celebrate life after a transplant
He added: ‘It's amazing to be involved with team Anthony Nolan. I've very passionate about the work Anthony Nolan do, so to be part of the team taking part in the games means a great deal to me.’
Ever more ambitious, William doesn’t plan to retire from competing any time soon. ‘I’d love to be able to improve my cycling further by competing in events like the Commonwealth or Olympic games.’ he said.
‘I’m not sure how feasible that would be without being a full time athlete and the sponsorship that goes with it. I’m not sure what to expect except tough competition, the toughest I’ll face to date.
‘I just hope I can deliver for myself, my team and country.’
Tom Bishop, Senior Patient Services and Information Manager at Anthony Nolan, said: ‘We are delighted to bring Team Anthony Nolan to the Westfield Health British Transplant Games for the fifth year and are proud of our diverse range of athletes.
‘The Games are a testament to the incredible spirit and determination of people who have gone through such a difficult and complicated recovery. This event demonstrates that many stem cell transplant recipients like William can go on to live rich, healthy and fulfilling lives.
‘We’re over the moon for William, qualifying to represent his country at a world level is something few of us will ever do. Team Anthony Nolan will be cheering him on every step of the way.’
To find out more about Anthony Nolan, or to join the stem cell register, visit www.anthonynolan.org