TWELVE years ago Nick Allen was diagnosed with a brain tumour and went blind as a result.
But now the 42-year-old is preparing for a swimathon and to conquer the Solent for a pair of charities, including one that helped him through his nightmare.
Along with colleagues Paul Hackey, 36, and Ian Cutler, 47, the trio of IT specialists from HMS Collingwood, the navy’s training base in Fareham, he will take part in the Marie Curie Cancer Care Swimathon next month.
But that is just a warm-up as next year Nick and Paul will attempt the four-mile crossing to the Isle of Wight for the Pituitary Foundation.
Nick, from Alverstoke in Gosport, said: ‘It was around Christmas 1999 when I was diagnosed with the brain tumour. It left me with a rare condition – acromegaly – which produces excessive growth hormones, so I started growing again.
‘And where it was compressing on the optic nerve I went blind as well. I was in quite a bad way.
‘I was lucky it was benign, but I had to have two operations and radiotherapy, and I have to have regular tests, but because they couldn’t remove the tumour it is sitting there for the rest of my life.’
As a result of his diagnosis, Nick lost his career in the navy where he was a leading hand in weapons engineering.
He added: ‘The Pituitary Foundation helped me quite a lot. They put me in touch with other people who had it, and had come to terms with what it meant. I’ve since been able to build a new career.
‘My sight came back eventually, but it was weird. Where I’d put on so much weight I didn’t recognise the person looking back at me in the mirror.’
Nick had been looking for a challenge to help lose his weight when he came across the swimathon, which takes place on the weekend of April 27 to 29 at the Holbrook Leisure Centre, in Gosport. Between them, the trio will be sponsored to swim three miles.
‘Last year I had an aunt who died of breast cancer, and she was looked after by Marie Curie,’ he said.
‘I was looking for a way to lose some weight and I knew this was a very worthwhile cause.
‘I go swimming quite regularly so I’m confident, but next year will be more of a challenge.’
Paul, from Cosham, added ‘This charity is important to me as I have known many people who have been affected by cancer.’
And Ian who lives in Fareham said: ‘I am supporting Marie Curie because their nurses helped my uncle through the final stages of his terminal prostate cancer.’
To sponsor them visit tinyurl.com/7nshjzc.