“Everyone was saying ‘you’ll do well with the girls, every girl loves that whole Florence Nightingale syndrome’ – but no, absolutely not, you’re an idiot if you think that’s any way true”
Brave Iain Whelan has raised more than €100,000 for cancer charities, having being diagnosed with stage three brain cancer two years ago.
Dubliner Iain (34) has now amassed a huge social media following and wryly calls himself the ‘King of Chemo’.
“Everyone was saying ‘you’ll do well with the girls, every girl loves that whole Florence Nightingale syndrome’ – but no, absolutely not, you’re an idiot if you think that’s any way true,” insists Iain, who is originally from Clontarf but now lives in London.
“It’s a pretty horrible pitch to go ‘yeah, so worst case scenario you fall in love with me and then I absolutely break your heart when I leave the world forever’. Who thinks that would actually be sort of a positive selling to yourself?”
Iain will later today run in the Dublin marathon, hoping to raise more money for cancer charities.
“I did my first marathon in 2012, maybe a little before then, which was the Dublin marathon,” says Iain, who appears on Lucy Investigates social influencers on Virgin media One tomorrow, tells the Sunday World
“I did London in 2013 and then I stopped doing marathons and triathlons, got back into rugby which is different to marathon training
“The fastest I ever did was three hours 33 minutes. That was years ago. The fastest I did this year was just under four hours.”
As well as his own personal marathons this year, Iain also ran ones in London, Edinburgh Boston and Manchester, all for charity.
He will be quite recognisable in today’s Dublin marathon.
“I know its Halloween, but I will stick to my own sort of uniform which is a big king crown, a cape and a hospital down, which does the job for me and is goofy and stupid looking,” he giggles.
Iain left Ireland over ten years go to live in England as he could not get a job in his chosen career as a paramedic. He now works in the fitness industry.
He explains he had no symptoms of cancer when he was diagnosed with the killer disease.
“I didn’t get any symptoms. That’s what makes me the luckiest unlucky man on the earth,” he notes.
“I went in to do a random clinical trial and they always to in-depth tests, and this particular screening they had to test the brain, which they don’t always do.
“So, not only was I going down to do a clinical trial, but one to do with the head, so they did a brain MRI and that was where my tumour got detected.”
His surgeon told him he had only encountered one other person his age who had also come in with no symptoms for a brain tumour.
“The only people that this sort of thing happens to are people who are in their 60s, and so they are getting to their retirement ages and they get scans and that’s where people who are symptomless get their brain tumour discovered,” he explains.
Iain has had several procedures.
“I’ve already had surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. From there it’s non-western scientific approaches I have access to now,” he points out.
“If there’s a sign of growth I might go in for more chemotherapy and more surgery, but it’s going to take a couple of years until it’s safe for them to do that again.”
He does not know how long he has left to live and has not been given a timespan.
“They never do that, that’s Hollywood,” he stresses. “ What they do is they say ‘these are the stats of your age’
“They said ‘it’s going to be inaccurate information because there is no information about people in your situation, people who are in their 30s who come in with no symptoms, we don’t have information on people like you. We are going on for information on people who are in their 60s and their life expectancy on average is about five years’.
“Also that five years does not mean the average person dies at five years, some people just bang, they don’t take to it too well and its bye bye, and some people last 20 years but between the two of them, they even out in the middle.”
He tries to remain positive.
“It could be maybe me being in the stages of denial about the whole situation, or it simply could be that I kind of look like ‘OK you’re telling me there’s no real accurate estimation as to when I’m going to die’ and the doctor says ‘pretty much’,” he reflects.
“The focus is something I want to do. I have mapped my life where everything I do is now associated with one singular goal which I have never had before in my life.
“I now know ‘this is a good story, I’m now the main protagonist in my own film and I’ve already got a baseline that’s a good story, so now I’ve got to write my own story’.
“So, I’m turning around the things I’m doing in my life into stuff that’s related to that, so it just gave a lot of clarity and gives a lot of focus and it’s all stuff that’s I’ve already done as a habit, so like playing video games and getting sponsorship through that.”
He want to continue raising money for charity through the likes of fitness classes and pub quizzes.
“This is all stuff I enjoy, so now it’s gone an added reason to do it other than ‘yeah, I enjoy my work’,” he exclaims.
“Now I enjoy my work plus it has an extreme positive goal that I want to achieve, and it’s not because that I am a big sort of goody two shoes, I’m not going to pretend like I am that person.
“This is a competition for me - it happens to be a scoreboard that has a lot of meaning. At the same time, it’s not like I couldn’t care less about people like myself who have cancer, I do want money to go to cancer research but I’m not going to try and piggyback.”