To be diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of just 25 is devastating enough.. But to be told "if you don't have the operation you'll die", is not the news Portsmouth Chiropractor Ross Fripp, ever expected to hear.
Ross was a fit and healthy 24 year old when he became sick in August 2013. Suspecting it was just something he'd eaten, he carried on life as normal, but the sickness continued and gradually he developed further symptoms.
Following many tests that showed nothing abnormal, Ross underwent a head MRI in November 2014 which diagnosed a 3.5 x 4cm 4th ventricular ependymoma, situated in a difficult to get to location but 3 weeks later he was undergoing an 8 hour operation to remove it "It was a case of, if you don't have the operation you'll die", and so an operation it was, 6-7 weeks before his 26th birthday.
Following the procedure, Ross was unable to breathe by himself, speak or swallow and suffered severe double vision, but following a 10 day stay in the Neurological ICU over Christmas, was eventually discharged home 32 days later, on New Years Day.
Ross gradually began to walk on his own again and set himself challenges to improve his distance. Having been a keen runner for many years with Southampton Athletics Club, this was a huge part of his life and after 4-5 months tried to run again but was devastated to discover that a paralysed vocal cord obstructed his airway....so running was out of the question!
So Ross turned his attention to cycling and following what he describes as a "miraculous recovery" started training to undertake a challenge known as “Everesting”, to raise money for Smile4Wessex, to give something back to the team at the Wessex Neurological Centre who he credits for saving his life.
"After my surgery it felt like my recovery was going to be like climbing Mount Everest....and I got through that, so let me see if I can cycle the elevation of it"
To succeed, Ross would need to cycle up and down a hill until he climbed the elevation gain of Mount Everest, and on the 17th March 2019 at 04:45, Ross commenced his challenge on Southwick Hill. He battled the elements, with a strong headwind for much of the day and intermittent rain showers. But he persevered, ultimately cycling for over 15 hours, barely stopping until he had completed 105 ascents of Southwick Hill to reach 29,445ft, over 415ft more than the 29,030ft goal!
Ross was joined by many cyslists from his local club 'The Fareham Wheelers' who supported him for much of the day, as well as family and friends who lined the route.
Ross recently returned to the Wessex Neurological Centre to be reunited with his Consultant Neurosurgeon, Mr Paul Grundy, to present a cheque for a staggering £11,585 from his fundraising efforts;
“I can't describe how happy it makes me feel to be able to give something back to the wonderful group of people who have kept me alive. I simply cannot fault the care I received at the Wessex Neurological Centre both immediately after my surgery, and the support I still get 4 years on. I wanted to pick a challenge that I knew wouldn't be easy, I wanted to do something difficult to raise as much as possible to show my gratitude to Mr Grundy and every single person involved in my care, the surgeons, the doctors and nurses were all amazing people. Without any of these people this wouldn't have been possible. Thank you!”