Twenty-five-year old Toby, a financial advisor from Herne Hill, is defying the odds to run the London Marathon two years to the day after he was diagnosed with Hodkin lymphoma.
Now cancer free, Toby is running for CLIC Sargent, the charity that helped him through his treatment.
“It was from the first day of being diagnosed that I was inspired to sign up for the marathon,” he said.
“It happened to be the day of the London Marathon and I was stood alone on London Bridge. I can remember it so vividly.
“I was in my robe and then there was everyone finishing the marathon with their medals and that’s when I promised myself I would do that.
“I had spent my first night in intensive care as tumours had narrowed my airways.
“I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without being breathless and now I know I will finish the London Marathon like I have finished my treatment.”
Toby skiing with friends when he first realised something wasn’t right. After visiting the doctor, what seemed to be a chest infection turned out to be stage three-to-four Hodgkin lymphoma.
“I had been suffering from a chesty cough for a while and so I visited my doctor a few times but they just kept sending me away with antibiotics and an inhaler – diagnosing it as a chest infection. Being young and otherwise healthy, I kept thinking I’ll be fine.
“As time went on however, I was really struggling for breath and was throwing up. I just kept thinking there is something wrong with me and so I went back to the GP.”
Doctors found growths around his windpipe and chest that had spread all the way to his belly button.
After diagnosis, he quickly started his treatment at Guy’s Hospital.
Toby went into remission at the end of 2017, and last year a scan confirmed he was still clear.
He credits the support he received from CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading charity for young cancer patients and their families, with helping him get through.
“No one really warned me how bad chemo and the side effects would be. I wasn’t able to sleep or breathe properly,” he said.
“Everything just hurt and I had months of just trying to get through every day.
“Friends can treat you a bit like you’re in a zoo as they don’t know what to say, but Liz, my CLIC Sargent community worker, made me feel less like a victim and normal – and realise I’m still just a young person going through something bad – but I don’t need to be defined by that.
“If it hadn’t been for Liz and CLIC Sargent, I think I would have just drifted through my treatment and felt alienated. She was just there for me to both emotionally and practically support me.”
Toby is now back at work full time and has been training for the race as part of a team of five, including his girlfriend Emily, brothers Chris and George, and friend Nikola.
“You never know how much a charity can help you until it happens to you,” he said.
“I was lucky I wasn’t too financially affected by my cancer and had family and friends to support me. I have seen that not everyone is so lucky.
“I want to help others have the support I did and have access to whatever they need.”
To donate, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/toby-bentley.