Wales

Male breast cancer: Man will now row for GB after beating illness

Ollie Banks in Henley Image copyright Ollie Banks
Image caption Ollie Banks, pictured at Henley, thought he may not be able to continue his passion of rowing

Ollie Banks is looking forward to rowing for Great Britain and starting an RAF career in 2020, but his life could have been very different.

At the beginning of 2018, the 23-year-old was diagnosed with a breast tumour.

The University of South Wales graduate became one of only 390 men in the UK diagnosed with breast cancer each year and lost more than a stone in weight.

However, what made his case particularly unusual was it is normally found in men aged 60 to 70.

Despite being told he may never row again, he underwent a mastectomy and was given the all-clear in January.

He has since completed his aeronautical engineering degree, has started a cancer awareness campaign among students and will represent Great Britain at rowing next August.

"I found a lump and went to the doctor to see what it was, and was told I had a tumour," Mr Banks said.

"I underwent treatment between May and June last year, but then discovered that the lump had returned so had to get back for more."

A chemical mastectomy removed the affected tissue.

Image copyright Ollie Banks
Image caption Mr Banks is heavily involved at the University of South Wales - with sport and the students' union

However, as his weight dropped from 10.5 stone to under 9.5 as he was treated, Mr Banks was also given some difficult news.

"When I had my diagnosis I was told that I may not be able to row again, which was obviously devastating news," he said.

It is a passion that he took up in 2011, even helping to set up a rowing club at the University of South Wales (USW) after joining the institution and finding it did not have one.

As well as competing for Castle Dore Rowing Club in his native Cornwall, the RAF Association and university, he also coached the university team.

The strength and conditioning team at the university has helped him increase his weight to more than 11 stone, which led to him being selected to represent Great Britain at the International Contest of Seamanship.

Image copyright Ollie Banks
Image caption Mr Banks will start a career in the RAF next year

Mr Banks will be the only competitor from a Welsh university at the event in Russia next August.

After completing his studies in the summer, he started a year-long role as activities officer for the students union at USW.

This involved leading a cancer awareness campaign called Nuts, Nips and Other Bits, which urges people to check for anything unusual on their bodies.

It finishes on 1 March when Mr Banks will run the Newport Half Marathon dressed as a breast.

He will then begin a career in the air force.

"I've learned a lot over the past few years, that success isn't a straight line and you have lots of ups and downs," he said.

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