By Damian Dolan
Transplant Team Ireland’s Trevor Lynch never dreamt he’d get the opportunity to represent Ireland, and while the circumstances may not be quite as he’d have wished, he’s determined to embrace the experience for as long as he can.
Later this month, the Limerick-native who lives in Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire, will be part of a 38-strong Ireland team taking part in the World Transplant Games in Newcastle (17-24 August).
Trevor will compete in the 5km Run, 1500m and 800, in the 50-59 years age category.
In 2012, Trevor was diagnosed with Lymphoma – a type of cancer of the blood. It’s the fifth most common cancer in the UK.
He underwent an initially successful six-month course of chemotherapy, but the cancer returned and in 2014, and again 2016, he needed a bone marrow transplant.
While the first transplant involved his own stem cells, the second involved cells from a donor.
That qualified him to become part of Transplant Team Ireland – a team put together and run by The Irish Kidney Association – and take his passion for running to a new level.
“I’ve always enjoyed sport, but I’d never say I was particularly good at it, and I never, ever dreamt I would have the opportunity to represent Ireland internationally,” Trevor told the Irish World.
“It’s all very surreal that I’m representing Ireland, but it’s amazing. I still just feel that I just jog around the place.”
He added: “You look at some of the top runners out there, putting in amazing times that I’ll never achieve, but then let them go and have two bone marrow transplants and then see how quickly they can run.”
Lynch represented his country at the British Transplant Games last year in Birmingham where he won silver and bronze medals, and again last month in Wales where he came away with three more silver medals.
This will be his first Transplant World Games and while a gold medal would be nice, he’s keen to emphasise that the Games are a “celebration of life” and it’s “not about the winning”.
“I find it hard to believe how people who have lost loved ones and authorised the donation of their organs as a last gift, are there supporting the people who’d received the organs,” he said.
“A lot of people are only there because someone died, to give up their organs. That’s amazing.”
Trevor will be part of the largest ever Irish Transplant Team travelling abroad. Ranging in age from 16 to 81, the Ireland team of 29 men and nine women, have all undergone organ transplants including one heart, one lung, four liver and 31 kidney.
They will be among 2000 participants from over 60 countries who will take part in the World Transplant Games.
Trevor, who works in IT, has been living in England since 2002 with his wife, who comes from Oxfordshire, and their two children.
For him, the Games is a “stage” upon which to show others that cancer doesn’t have to be “the end”.
— TeamIreland (@TeamIreland1) July 31, 2019
Naturally, he’s a strong supporter of organ donation, the Irish Kidney Association and their work in organising the Irish Team, as well as the support they give to kidney patients.
“Organ donation is a really wonderful thing – it saves lives. It gives people a second chance and that’s the key point of it all,” he said.
A keen cyclist in his youth, Trevor found running made him “feel better’ during his chemotherapy and helped give him a focus during his remission. Ironic given he’d once found running the most “boring thing ever”.
He trained up for the Dingle half marathon in 2012 and has raised money for Stoke Mandeville Hospital Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
“It gave me the motivation to keep running, and I found I really, really enjoyed it. I did well and I decided to keep running,” said Trevor.
Meet the team 🇮🇪 Now living in the UK, Limerick man Trevor Lynch will take part in Athletics & 5K Road Race events at @WTGF_Games in Newcastle beginning Saturday. #WTG2019 https://t.co/v8m6k2ppnG pic.twitter.com/NvuanIzjHj
— TeamIreland (@TeamIreland1) August 12, 2019
When the cancer came back, he continued to run, having made a conscious decision that Lymphoma wasn’t going to beat him.
This year, he’s taken it all “a bit more seriously”, joining a running club in preparation for the British and World Games.
Trevor still suffers from fatigue – a legacy of the transplants – so does his training first thing in the morning when he has the most energy. He feels at 3pm like the rest of us might feel by 10pm, at the end of the working day.
“I do feel that it takes me longer to improve through training than someone who hasn’t had a bone marrow transplant,” he said.
However, he’s determined to embrace the opportunity given to him by the bone marrow transplants.
“While I’m feeling healthy, I’m going to have a really happy and balanced life, and I’ll be training and working as hard as I can.
“I have two children aged nine and 13 and I also want to spend a lot of time with them, so if something does happen I won’t look back and regret not having made the most of this period of healthiness.
“It’s a tough treatment (Bone Marrow Transplant), but I’m glad I had it and I’m full of life as a result.”