Former Royal Marine who survived wars in Iraq and Afghanistan given terminal cancer diagnosis

Report by ITV Meridian's Kerry Swain

A former Royal Marine who survived wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is now fighting the biggest battle of his life after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

Rian Ilett, 33, from Portsmouth, was given less than 18 months to live almost three years ago. He says he's "lucky" to still be alive.

His brain tumour was only discovered after Rian was hit by an anti-tank missile fired by ISIS in the Middle East in 2019.

Miraculously he survived the attack, but during medical checks back in the UK, doctors found the tumour.

Rian said: "There's plenty of people worse off than me.

"The thing is I personally believe, with positivity and motivation, you can overcome anything.

"Your head controls your body, so if your head's strong, it'll keep your body strong."

Rian survived a missile attack in 2019. Credit: Rian Ilett

Rian had brain surgery to remove the mass, followed by an initial round of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Following that, he had another six cycles of chemotherapy.

He said: "When I was in the cancer centre every day, I just saw people giving up and I think that once you give up, that's you on the downward spiral.

"What you've got to do is fight forward, and obviously I've got kids that look up to me as well, so you need to set an example to other people to not just give up.

"At the cancer centre you see kids that are 4, 5, 6 years old on a bed undergoing chemotherapy. At least I got 33 years, they got not a lot."

Rian joined the military in 2006. Credit: Rian Ilett

Rian first joined the marines in 2006, he was then deployed to Afghanistan three times, and Iraq twice.

He has now written a book about his experience in the hope of helping others.

Rian said: "I had a bit of time off because of Covid. A few of my friends said I should write a book, so I did, I got a laptop, started typing away, and released a book online and self-published it in December."

"The book is predominantly about my military experiences, but it also goes back to my teenage years.

"It's all about overcoming adversity, as a way of showing people that no matter what hurdle you come across as long as you attack it with positive aggression you can achieve good things."

Rian Ilett fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. Credit: Rian Ilett

Rian has been working with the charity Brain Tumour Research to raise awareness of the disease.

"The brain tumour charity only gets 1% of the overall Cancer Research budget, but it's the most devastating for people, so through my book I want to show people that you can overcome health diagnoses.

"It's not over until it's over. Hopefully by raising awareness through my book I can raise awareness for brain tumour charities and hopefully we can start changing the statistics."

Rian says his military past has helped him to keep going.

"Being surrounded by the people that I've worked with through my career and the experiences I've had in the military has kept me going.

"It stems back from things like getting ambushed in Afghanistan, you think you're going to die, but with the right mentality and the right people around you, we're still here talking today and I've used that with this as well.

"The same people have been around me through my fight with this cancer as well. Now I'm out of the military I intend on continuing my war with cancer."