Pride of Britain Awards 2021: Dad given months to live travels 'to moon and back'

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A man who was told he had just nine months to live is being recognised for the incredible way he responded after receiving a life-saving transplant.

Merv Lawrence, a father of three from South Gloucestershire, has been nominated for a Pride of Britain Award 14 years after being diagnosed with a rare auto-immune bone marrow disease while in the Army.

The condition inhibited blood cell production and Merv was told he had just nine months left. Thankfully, he was given a life-saving bone marrow transplant and is now on a mission to help other people like him.

He has since raised thousands for the charities that supported him and his family by travelling 'to the moon and back'.

Merv said: "My wife has always said to the three little rat bags before they're going to bed ‘I love you to the moon and back’ and I thought actually let's have a little think about what we can do with this.

Merv aimed to run and cycle 9554 miles - the distance to the moon and back - to raise money for charities Credit: ITV West Country

"Luckily enough I got my seven-year-old to help me out with a bit of arithmetic and he came up with the formula that if we covered 9554 miles on Earth and if we [multiplied] that by 50 in moon miles that's the distance to the moon and back.

"After my bone marrow transplant, I was very lucky. I have a few ongoing medical issues and stuff but I'm absolutely fine so doing this was a pleasure - there are people who are a lot worse off than me."

Merv has raised £30,000 from the challenge, which he will share with four charities - including the British Heart Foundation which has supported his son, Teddy.

He was born with holes in his heart and needed surgery at just nine weeks' old – it's likely that Teddy will have to face more operations when he gets older.

Merv said: "He's a proper little nugget, he's exactly as I'd want him to be.

Merv's three children, including Teddy (centre), who was born with holes in his heart.

"He's NG [nasogastric] tube fed, he's been that way since he was a baby which is quite normal with people who have heart problems.

"We will never be able to pay back the amount of help and treatment we have received but hopefully by doing a little something I can give back and help others."

Merv completed the first 2,000 miles of his journey alone but then 127 volunteers or 'Moontrekkers' covered the rest of the distance over a six month period - sometimes with him - sometimes alone.

One of his supporters, Sophie Hicks, said: "He's just one of those people whose personality is infectious.

"This started off as just an idea and he brought it to life. So many people have got involved and his family have been through so much and all his focus on is about giving back."

Merv has been supported by 'Moontrekkers' including Sophie Hicks (left) and Nic Coombs (right) Credit: ITV West Country

Nic Coombs, another 'Moontrekker', said: "I don't particularly enjoy running myself but it had to be done.

"Merv is really quirky with the things he comes up with. When the sponsor forms came out they were all hand written, just like Merv's little touch on things."

Merv said support from the public has been "absolutely brilliant" when people see him making his way in his spacesuit.

He added: "Whether I'm running or on the bike dressed in a space suit, some of the comments leave me laughing.

"They say 'I'm running the wrong way' or tell me 'NASA is that way' and other things like that. It's happy days, it's good."