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Sponsorship for A Good Cause - Fundraising for 3 Cancer Charities


Doug McIntosh "Amputee with Altitude"

Interview with Doug McIntosh

KBAE: Can you share more about yourself, and how did you overcome the disability?

Doug: I am 56 and have been ‘married to Diane for 33 years and in 1997 I was diagnosed with a very rare type of soft tissue cancer. Medical term Epithelioid Sarcoma, this knocked my World into a completely different direction. This type of cancer is aggressive and if not treated early, is life threatening. My best option to save my life was to have the affected area, my right forearm amputated. At this time, my three children were all young, Rachel (11), Scott (8) and Jodie (3).

Date January 1997
I had a small lump my middle finger. It never seemed to clear up, but I wasn’t bothered by it. When I was on a diving paramedics course in Devon, I asked the course leader. He had a look at it and said that he could also feel a lump at the base of my finger too. When I got home to Aberdeen, I decided to see my GP. After examining it, he thought it was just a cyst and probably best left alone. I was happy with his recommendation, but a few weeks later, I felt that I wanted it removed. I went back to my GP and he organised for the lump to be removed at the hospital.

Date March 1997
I went in for day surgery and the surgeon started to remove the lump from my hand and during the operation he advised me that my arm to be anaesthetised and he got a specialist to look at the lump. The specialist advised me that the operation would be more complexed than first planned. The surgeon told me that I would need further investigation on the area that was operated. I wondered if this meant there was something wrong, but didn’t think too much of it until about a week later when I had the dressing on my hand removed. That was when I saw the true extent of the operation, around 70 stitches running from the front and back of my hand and wrist and was taken aback by the extent of the surgery.

Two weeks after the lump had been removed, my GP rang me to tell me that I needed to go back to the hospital to ‘Clinic D’ for an outpatient appointment. It was only when I arrived for my appointment and found that ‘Clinic D’ was actually the cancer out patient’s clinic that I knew I had cancer!

My Diagnosis and Treatment
A team of cancer specialists, were at my outpatient appointment. The team explained that I had an aggressive type of soft tissue sarcoma and advised me that I had different treatment options. I could have further surgery to my hand or the best survival option was amputation of my forearm. They were very clear that amputation was the best option for me. Although this was a huge surprise to me, I could see that in terms of survival, this was my best option. I had to go from the consultation and go to Nuclear Science Department, where my first diagnosis was MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and had a tracer dye injected in my arm and then had the imaging done. Directly after the MRI, I was transferred to the CTRI (Computer Tomography Resonance Imaging) to get a full body scan. At this time my wife was not aware of any diagnosis being performed or my first meeting where I was advised of my amputation.

I thought I was just attending a routine outpatient appointment, I was on my own (no mobile phones these days). My initial reaction was that I wanted to hide the news from my wife and three children, but I knew this wasn’t possible. Later that night I told my wife that I had cancer in my arm and had to undergo an amputation. My wife broke down, and her obvious distress alerted the children that something was wrong. I don’t think my children really understood about either cancer or amputation but as my wife was distressed, they were upset seeing my wife crying so much. I can honestly say that this was the absolute worst point in my entire cancer ‘journey’. I felt so powerless and nothing that could be said would change the outcome.

Waiting for the surgery was tough and I had some restless nights. But the day of my surgery, just over a week after my diagnosis, I was feeling pretty positive. I saw it as a life-saving procedure and had no doubts that I was doing the right thing.

After my Operation

I experienced phantom limb pain (feeling pain in the part of the limb that has been removed) as I had been warned. It was the mundane things that caused the biggest problems, like being able to butter some toast or tie my shoelaces, but gradually I learnt to use my left hand. I was also given a prosthetic limb that I could use when I needed to.

Psychologically, I was lucky never to experience the depression that I know can affect many people when they have had an amputation or disability. I think by setting myself goals, like learning to sign my name with my left hand, helped me to find a positive focus. In addition I had, and still had the support from my young family.

There was a time I felt vulnerable and that was the day after my amputation, when the surgeon was doing his ward rounds and asked how I was and I said I was feeling fantastic, as the cancer had been removed and he advised me that this was not the case. I had to wait until the histology of the removed limb was completed to ascertain if the cancer was contained locally. If the cancer had spread, I was advised there would be another amputation on the remaining arm up to the shoulder.

Escape into Sports and Fund Raising

I‘ve always been keen in sports and after my operation, it was then I decided to explore my options to participate in sports to raise funds for cancer charities.

When I left the hospital and at home undergoing recuperation and further treatment, I decided to go out on my bike and very soon fell off my bike, as my balance was compromised and thought my cycling days were well and truly over. I took my bike in to the shop (Cycling World to get converted) and even then it was still not ideal. It was then I came up with the idea to train on a uni-cycle, to help perfect my balance and give extreme central core stomach strength, to enable myself to go back to a conventional bike.

After mastering the uni bike, I decided to cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats. I then Cycled around Britain over 2000 miles and then competing in a time trial from Land’s End to John O’Groats, doing this event in 98 hours. I was then invited to join Dallaglio and Flintoff as one of their ongoing team members. So by having gone through an amputation may have slowed me down, but it has not and will not stop me from doing anything I want to do.

The only time I was emotional when I was in hospital, the girls from HR paid me a visit with a huge envelope with a card from the whole Stena Coflexip Fleet (Now TechnipFMC) and there was a cheque for £60,000 from all the vessels I worked on. All the people raised money for me from the Catering, Marine, ROV and Diving Crew. I was so emotional with the amount of money raised. This was the biggest reason I wanted to immerse myself into fund raising.

KBAE: Share with us what is this Mountain climb?

Doug: Mont Ventoux is the training ground for the Tour de France Riders and my Challenge was to climb the 3 routes up Mont Ventoux in one day. Club des Cinglés is a recognised challenge and if the cyclist completes the 3 routes in one day becomes a member of the Mont Ventoux Club des Cinglés, which is a unique cycling club. Mont Ventoux is a mountain which has featured several Tour de France events over the years and has taken a few cyclists lives including the life of British pro cyclist Tom Simpson. The mountain has three roads all the way up to its summit at 1,912m high and they are quite different in their approach. By cycling Mont Ventoux 3 times in one day you will join the Club des Cinglés. It’s a ride that in total measures 136km along but, significantly, includes 4,443m of vertical ascent. Throw in, is the unpredictability of Mont Ventoux’s weather systems.

KBAE: What are the difficulties that you've to overcome that is clearly over and above that of other cyclists?

Doug: Cycling up hill is my strength and as I have mastered the uni-cycle, cycling up hill for an amputee is a lot easier than going down hill. I have trained and configured my bikes, so that I feel quite confident taking on most mountain challenges. I did win the Man of the Mountain when I did the Dallaglio/Flintoff Cycle Slam in Switzerland.

Training at my “home from home” the Lecht. My Grand Parents lived close to the Lecht and when I was 12, I cycled up the Lecht with a 3 speed shopping bike and this was the start of my cycling journey.


Malaucene Route

Bedoin Route

Sault Route

Final Climb

MISSION Completed

At the summit of Mont Ventoux, I had time to reflect on my biggest challenge in my life is surviving cancer since 1997. I felt proud and privileged still being alive, seeing my children grow up and having the health to take part with all the cycling and running events, to raise funds for Cancer Charities. I had 2 people in my mind at the summit of Mont Ventoux, one was Diane’s Dad James (Jim) Taylor and Rachel’s partners Father, David Gilbert and glad I did this in their memory, as unfortunately they both lost their battle with cancer.

Next day Diane and I went to Malaucene to hand over the Registration Card for initial checking, where you are handed the Finishers Cycling Shirt.


If you would like to make a contribution, check out his fund-raising page here.