'Super fit' father thought cancer symptoms were post-race fatigue

A father who completed three Ironman competitions thought he had post-race fatigue – but it turned out to be deadly form of cancer.

Peter McCleave, 40, from Cheshire in England’s northwest, was diagnosed with myeloma in March 2017 after dismissing his tiredness and aches as the usual pains of long-distance running throughout the previous year.

Myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells and affects bone marrow.

But the father-of-two said he did three endurance competitions during the year before his diagnosis, not knowing he was ill.

Peter McCleave, 40, completed in three Ironman competitions before realising he had myeloma. Source: Caters

“I’ve always been fit and healthy so obviously if I was going to get something it was always going to be very serious,” he said. 

“In hindsight I did experience some warning signs. 

“I got tired a lot and ached a lot but felt that it was all because of my training for these kind of events.

“Now, there are some days where it does feel like I’m living with a death sentence.” 

The 40-year-old was first rushed to hospital after completing the Ironman Triathalon in Wales in September 2016. It was suspected he had sepsis along with pneumonia and Legionnaire’s disease. 

Following a series of blood tests, the father was given the devastating news in March 2017 that he had myeloma and had only seven years to live.

Mr McCleave with one of his sons. He’s undergone chemotherapy to remove the cancer. Source: Caters

The disease also nearly paralysed him when the cancerous tumour broke three vertebrae in his back. 

Determined, Mr McCleave underwent three cycles of chemotherapy. 

“The first two cycles after the diagnosis were terrible,” he said.

“I was surviving off a cocktail of painkillers. 

“For the last year and a half I’ve had non-stop chemotherapy, it’s just been cycle after cycle.” 

Despite having an autologous stem cell transplant in May, where his stem cells were removed from his body and given chemotherapy, Mr McCleave said he is searching for a stem cell donor so he can live beyond his seven-year prediction.

He’s also yet to tell his two boys Max, 8, and Seb, 6, the reality of his diagnosis. 

“They don’t need to know it yet, we try to normalise it rather than make a fuss,” he said.

“Sometimes I say I’m too tired to do things but I try to do things with them whenever I can. 

“They know something isn’t right.”

The family has also started a GoFundMe page to help the father with his treatment.

The father of two with his wife and children. Source: Caters