A man from Kidwelly living with incurable skin cancer is planning to walk the entire 870-mile Wales Coast Path for charity.
Luke Thomas, 35, was diagnosed with stage four metastatic melanoma, an incurable form of the disease making him reliant on life-prolonging treatment.
He was told a cancerous mole had spread to his lymph nodes and across the skin.
Luke is currently 12 months into a targeted treatment that has a shelf life of 12 to 14 months, but despite his prognosis he plans to walk the entire Welsh coast to prove there there is life after a cancer diagnosis.
"I call it a glorified pub crawl," he joked.
"I am excited and a bit nervous but it is a challenge and it gives me something to focus on."
Luke is due to start the walk in July, and has so far only booked one hotel as he plans to play the rest of the trip "one or two days ahead".
While he will complete the entire walk alone carrying a one-man tent, he will be joined by some of his best friends and family along the way.
He will also be joined by his consultant from St Thomas hospital in London and Rhondda MP Chris Bryant, who has previously spoke about his experience with skin cancer.
The walk will put immense challenges on Luke's body, who said one of the side effects of his current treatment is fatigue, nauseousness and joint pain.Although he also hopes it will help keep him fit and build up his immune system as a result, along with all the walks he will be doing in preparation.So far, the furthest he has walked in preparation is 24 miles."My joints were alright, but I did realise I need better shoes," he joked.Luke has had people offer him free accommodation to stay the night along his route.
He is completely self-funding the trip but has raised more than £20,000 for charity Melanoma Focus and hopes to raise £25,000."I have been reading some books that sort of thing to prepare, learning about each stretch between stops which can determine where you stay," he said.
"I am kind of going into it blindly.
Luke was first diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in 2014 when an unusual mole on his back started to turn black.After surgery to remove the mole it wasn't until five years later in 2019, when Luke, who was working in architecture in London at the time, found another unusual mole, this time on his arm.The mole was again confirmed to be cancerous but was localised and once again surgically removed.However, he started to feel weak and nauseous before noticing small swellings in his arm and decided to go back to the hospital to get it checked out."I was really ignorant about skin cancer, I thought well it’s just skin, it can just be cut out.
"I didn’t think it was anything major," said Luke."As soon as I walked into the consultant's room for results, I saw the nurse holding a pack of leaflets and my gut sunk, I knew."It felt like a death sentence."I was in complete shock, the outlook wasn't good, it was a bad diagnosis."
He started immunotherapy, a type of cancer treatment that helps the immune system recognise and attack cancer cells.But Luke’s health deteriorated, he lost weight and at one point said that he was in so much pain that he couldn’t lift his arms to go into a PET scan.
He then started on targeted treatment which he continues to receive.A year on since starting targeted treatment, Luke is now classed as NED: no evidence of disease.
Although because the cancer is incurable, Luke will never be in remission, but for now, he has said his health is in a good place."People don't understand how deadly it can be, they think it is something that can be cut off, and while if its caught early enough, it can be, but it can spread," he explained.