'My battle with cancer is a hell of a lot worse than Afghanistan,' says Doncaster soldier who lost both legs in war
Former soldier and Doncaster fitness instructor Jay Baldwin lost both legs in Afghanistan.
But the 34-year-old dad says that is nothing compared to his latest battle as he battles a potentially deadly form of cancer.
Jay has support from friends and family, and this month, one of his best army friends is preparing to run three marathons in three days to help pay for transport and lodgings for his friends and family while he has treatment in Hull.
The former sergeant in the Princess of Wales’ Regiment moved to Kirk Sandall three years ago, and got a job as a fitness instructor at the Nuffield Health gym, next to White Rose Way, four years after losing both legs above the knee after a road side bomb exploded near to him in Helmand province in in 2012.
He said: “I hated being told what to do at school. When I left, I did some work plastering, but I didn’t want to be doing that for the rest of my life. I saw something about recruitment to the military. I went to interview, and the rest is history.
“They put me in the first battalion in 2003, aged 17, and in 2004, I went on active service, aged 18. I went to Iraq, and came through that unscathed.
“After that, I had nearly 10 years and four operational tours before I got hurt.
“I was in Helmand, and was sent on a fighting patrol. But I set off an IED (improvised explosive device).
“I remember shouting ‘man down’, and someone coming over and dealing with the initial first aid. I remember trying to use my radio, but then finding out that it had been blown off my back.
“I was the platoon sergeant to deal with casualties, and I was conscious.”
He was taken away to safety in an American Black Hawk helicopter, and initially treated at the Camp Bastion army base hospital.
“They managed to evacuate me, and eventually I went off to start my rehabilitation at Headley Court after 31 days in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital,” he added.
“It was what it was, and I just had to get on with it.”
After leaving the army, Jay initially piled on weight. But after an army benevolent fund paid for him to have a pioneering operation on his limbs in Australia, he joined one of his closed army friends, Brian Wood, for a 3,000 mile cycle ride across America to raise money for the charity.
He used a specially designed bike which he could pedal with his arms. They completed their trek in 14 days.
“I loved it. It was something we wanted to to, raising money for charity, and something that I didn’t think I would be able to do. But I managed to complete it, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve managed to complete in my life. And it inspired me to become a personal trainer.”
But last year, he started to get symptoms of an illness.
They started in October 2018.
Jay was having trouble swallowing and felt lumps emerging in his neck. His GP first thought it was a severe form of indigestion known as reflux, and told him to take a well-known medicine for heartburn and indigestion.
“I was deferred five times,” he said. “Then I went there and said ‘I’ve got lumps sticking out of my body. I can hardly breathe, I’m sweating and I’ve lost bodyweight. They said continue with the medicine. I said I wouldn’t leave until I’d had a blood test or a scan.
“I was given the scan and blood test, and on the back of that was told to go to A&E. They said they didn’t know what was in my chest, and then that I had inflamed lymph nodes, and I had lymphoma confirmed.
“I was in Doncaster Royal Infirmary for a week, I had lots of tests, and they told me I had Hodgkins lymphoma.
“I did chemotheraphy, and I’ve carried on with treatment.
“I later had another scan and it had relapsed.”
Jay feels his current battle is harder than any he faced in Afghanistan.
“This is a hell of a lot worse than Afghanistan,” he said. “There I knew what we were doing. Most of the time you could control the situation. But now, when I have got something in my body and can’t see it, It feels like I’m down and need someone to save me. But it is one of those things, and I’ve just got to get on with it. I will always be the person up and doing things.”
Fundraiser for Jay
Pal Brian Wood served with Jay and remains firm friends with in wounded friend.
He has decided to run three marathons in three day to raise money to help him and his family through his next course of treatment.
Brian is running the marathons in his home town of Bordon, from September 27 to 29.
He said: “Although the treatment showed signs of improving his condition initially, recent scans show that it is still present and has now unfortunately progressed to his spleen.Jay is now to become an inpatient, and will start aggressive treatment in Hull hospital imminently. Between now and the end of January he will spend at least eight weeks in hospital as a bare minimum. Nobody should have to worry about the financial side of things, especially going through everything he and his family are going through.
“However Hull is 46 miles away from his family home, 75 miles away from his youngest children, and 350 miles away from his eldest. Visiting him isn’t going to be cheap or easy, and Jay has obviously had to give up working in order to receive treatment.“Jay and his family have the usual bills, mortgage, car etcetera; but in addition to the above, his fiancé will now need to travel daily to visit him, as well as regular visits from his children. All of this is additional expense that hasn't been budgeted for. Additional financial worry is a burden Jay and his family could do without right now, and Jay has had more than his fair share of bad luck. This isn’t going to be an easy time, and money is the last thing he wants to worry about.“Too many of our veterans are struggling in lots of different ways. So let us all help try and make this a less painful journey for Jay and his family by chipping in to help pay for his families travel and accommodation. This is where we can all help to make a practical difference.”
Jay said the plan was “Brian all over”.
He said: “Brian was one of the first people to come and see me hospital – he’s just a good guy. This is just unbelievable.”To sponsor Brian, click here