Cancer survivor Dean Baker and his family have endured enough tragedy to last them a lifetime.
Aged 16, Dean was diagnosed with leukaemia and, so advanced was the disease, he was given hours to live.
Then, months into his treatment, his older brother Mike was also struck down by the same disease.
The brothers, who both hail from Prescot, battled to overcome the illness but while Dean survived Mike succumbed to the disease aged 33.
“Everything I do I feel I have to live my life for two people because I lived and Mike didn’t,” said Dean.
The 22-year-old former St Edmund Arrowsmith pupil is set to continue living to that maxim when he tackles the Great Manchester Swim, a mile-long race in open water on Salford Quays on July 19.
It is doubly poignant because Dean’s uncle, Tony Baker, who passed away last year aged 52 from an heart condition, was a regular competitor in the event.
Now free from cancer, Dean’s training is still hampered by his ordeal, which started when he woke one night in unbearable agony, and the effects of his life-saving treatment.
“I couldn’t move and the pain was so bad,” recalled Dean. “I was rushed into hospital that night. When the tests came back they said without immediate surgery I’d be dead within six hours because the cancer was so advanced.”
A 10-week stay in hospital was followed by years of treatment as both an in and out patient. “I couldn’t walk. I could barely move or speak because my body was so fragile, it was horrible to go through.”
As the Bakers struggled to come to terms with Dean’s plight, older son Mike was also struck down.
“It was devastating for the whole family, but especially for my mum and dad for them to have two lads with cancer,” said Dean.
“He was such a bubbly person, always making jokes. When I got diagnosed, I said to me, ‘It’s not right, I wish it was me so I could take away from you’.
“When he got diagnosed, he was still upbeat, joking, ‘I was only joking about taking the cancer from you, lad!’.”
Still recovering from a series of set-backs caused by the disease, including a fractured hip, Dean remains upbeat.
“I was walking along and I felt a pop and then I was in complete agony. But I’m determined not to let it stop me.”
l Dean is raising funds for Amyloidosis Research Fund. To sponsor Dean, contact him through his Facebook page.