Dad-of-two, 41, with months to live raises £350,000 to improve cancer diagnosis in Wales

Colleagues and friends joined Craig on his cross-channel journey.

A dad-of-two who has been given months to live has decided to spend the time he has left fundraising to improve cancer diagnosis in Wales.

Craig Maxwell, 41, from Tenby, Pembrokeshire, and his family's lives were changed forever when he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

Last month he was given 10-18 months to live, limiting the time he has left to spend with his eight-year-old son Zach, daughter Isla, aged 12, and wife Tracey.

Doctors first identified a tumour in June 2022. But it took 72 days for the official cancer diagnosis to come back.

Craig said that he 'had to do something to try to help the next person.'

"Those 72 days were the hardest thing I've ever been through, harder than actually finding out you have cancer, and a lot of people look at me strange when I say that, but when you don't know what your future holds for you and your family, it's hard to stay strong.

"You're not on any treatment. So whilst you feel ill, and you don't know what's happening, you're not on any treatment because the doctors don't know what to treat you for at that period of time.

"So my mental health was in the worst state it's ever been at the time, and you're trying to be a dad to your children, trying to be strong for your wife and parents and it's just impossible through that period."

He continued: "So when I found out it was cancer - unfortunately it was stage 4 and terminal and it had spread to my bones at that stage - we could deal with a plan and we could make sure that we can look at the future and find out what we're going to do and get on the treatments.

"I just knew I had to do something. There was no way I could sit back being through the experience that I've been and not do something to try to help the next person who's in the same situation as I am, and help them to get a quicker diagnosis to get them on treatment quicker, to support them and their family."

In Wales, the target time for a patient to start treatment after first being suspected of having cancer is 62 days.

But many wait much longer, with just 54.1% of patients being treated on time in May 2023.

Through a series of epic challenges, his latest cycling 320 miles from Cardiff to Paris over four days, Craig has raised more than £350,000 in the hope of changing that.

The donations are helping to fund a new project that aims to reduce the time it takes for lung cancer patients to get diagnosed.

The QuicDNA Project, run by Velindre Cancer Centre, uses liquid biopsies through a simple blood test, rather than tissue biopsies, which can be more invasive, complex and time-consuming, to diagnose cancer.

Craig cycled 320 miles from Cardiff to Paris over four days

Project lead and oncologist Dr Magda Meissner said: "Lung cancer in Wales is the fourth most common cancer in Wales and most patients are diagnosed in an advanced stage.

"So the earlier the diagnosis, the quicker the treatment we can get to the patient, we can avoid unnecessary deaths."

The project is currently being rolled out to patients in Aneurin Bevan University Health Board.

"The money will help us expand to all health boards in Wales, and we're not going to stop there," Dr Meissner said.

"We have plans to go further and give access to these liquid biopsies, once we prove it can be successful in lung cancer, we have already been approached to expand this to other cancers as well."

Colleagues and friends joined Craig on his cross-channel journey, including former Wales international Rhys Williams.

Rhys said: "If you know Craig you'll know that he is highly resilient, highly passionate and he's very stubborn. All those attributes have really come to the forth in his diagnosis.

"He's put a lot of energy into what he can do to help in the time that he has. He's really attacked the treatment aspect of it all, but he's really put a lot of energy into the fundraising aspect.

"He's spoken a lot about leaving a legacy and showing his children that his father stood up when he needed to, showed that resilience.

"The characteristics that he wants to epitomise and demonstrate not only to his children, to his friends, family and people around him, it's a legacy."

Craig's about to start a new phase of treatment in the hope of buying as much time as possible with his family.

He also hopes to complete more challenges and continue fundraising.

He added: "I just had a moment where I thought I can either choose this to be the end of something or it can be the beginning of something.

"That's what really helped me with the charity programme and deciding I'm going to make this the start of something not the end, and trying to make sure that there's something my children can see is positive out of this.

"The help and support and care that we've had has been incredible, and the bit that struck me was we just need to get them the best resources, tools and technology to help them to help us."