Richard Wright may have terminal cancer, but this morning he just landed in the UK, ready to compete in one of the most challenging races in the world – Ironman Wales. And he’s doing it to raise money for rhino and children with cancer. He may be terminal, but as this incredible South African points out – we all are…
In an exclusive interview with SAPeople, Richard says he was diagnosed with primary pituitary carcinoma in April 2016.
“Had a brain op to remove it. Two months later during radiation they discovered that it had spread. At that time I was given 6 months,” he says.
But after 35 radiation treatments, and chemo, he was given the all clear four months later… “against all and every expectation”.
Elated, he started training for Ironman South Africa. It was excruciating starting from zero… but then in early February this year a routine MRI picked up more cancer… Stage 4 Glioblastoma (brain cancer).
“I fell apart,” he admits, “but I was determined to finish the Ironman, so I decided to do it for something bigger than me.”
At that point he didn’t want to know about cancer… so he chose to run for rhino, coining the hashtag #GiveItHorns, and donating the funds he raised to a rhino poaching solution whereby the horn is infused with a radioactive isotope so it can’t be smuggled out – a procedure that costs just R8,000 to devalue the horn, and allows the rhino to keep their horns.
Richard ran for his life and for the rhino… and finished the Ironman, saving five rhino!
“It was a very big day for me!” he says. And in an “extremely humbling” tribute to his incredible achievement, the 30 minute SuperSport Ironman edition featured Richard as the story of the race.
“Since then I have used a number of extreme endurance events to prove to myself that I can beat this cancer. And to raise awareness for conservation. My efforts are tiny, it’s just me and social media.”
But Ironman Wales opens a new chapter for Richard. He has now decided to branch out into raising money for kids with cancer too.
“I spent Christmas Day in Port Elizabeth on my own last year… and decided to make it count. I spent a lot of the day at the PE Provincial Hospital with kids in the isolation wards, playing games and colouring in. And just chatting to their moms.”
What he discovered was how difficult it is for the mothers. Many cannot keep their jobs because the hospital staff depend on them to remain in the hospitals with their children, wearing protective clothing all day and sleeping there at night.
“It was incredibly sad,” he says. He met one mom whose partner wanted nothing more to do with the child when he got sick, and just disappeared.
“And so I decided then that I would do what I can to try and support two of the moms,” he says. He now stays in touch, with updates on the two little boys’ progress, and sends a little money each month… “but there are so many more, and that’s specifically what I want to do.”
Recently it was his youngest daughter’s ninth birthday, and after helping her bake a unicorn cake for her unicorn party… he realised that “every kid deserves to believe in magic and unicorns… and not have to deal wth terminal cancer, and life threatening disease and living in an isolation ward.”
He then realised that his #GiveItHorns hashtag works – Give it Horns for rhino and unicorns.
And that brings us to today… as he prepares to participate in Ironman Wales on Sunday, hoping to raise money for rhino and children with cancer.
When are you ready? When are you ever ready? When is anything ever ready? Just go and live your life because you’re terminal.
Of course he was hoping he could truly use this race – that his medical results weren’t going to be so bad in February, that he would recover quickly after Ironman SA – to qualify for the World Champs in Hawaii in October. He’s qualified before, won his age group and came in the Top 20 Overall…
“But I just had to realise that those days are gone,” he says. “That was the stark realisation when I made the decision to go to Wales… that it’s not going to be that BUT I put a video out, with the concept being that we’re all terminal – any one of us could be hit by a bus tomorrow – so yes, I’ve got cancer and I’m terminal… but what does that mean?
“Why wait for it to be perfect, why wait for something to be right, why wait at all? When are you ready? When are you ever ready? When is anything ever ready? Just go and live your life because you’re terminal. And that’s why I’m going to Wales.”
Any donation would be appreciated for this “superhero” who is giving back while suffering his own setbacks.
FNB Current Account (250655)
Acc No: 62351935344
Ref: either #RhinoRescueProject or #BelieveinMagic
Visit www.richardwright.co.za to learn more about this inspiring human being.
To any South Africans in Wales, please go and show your support if you’re nearby.
Watch Stuff it… I’m going to Wales!
“There is never a perfect time nor a perfect set of circumstances. Live life! Stop waiting. Do things you have never done before, and commit yourself. Write down goals and tick them off. You were not born just to be another paper-cut survivor. You are terminal.