East Devon dad sets off on a 40-mile charity hike after his rare cancer shock diagnosis left him unable to walk

A first-time dad from East Devon who learned to walk again after finding a rare cancer in his ankle is tackling a four-day charity hike.

Ryan Shaw, aged 29, from the Coly Valley near Seaton, this week set off on a four-day challenge to walk 40 miles along the East Devon Way, from Lyme Regis to Exmouth.

Ryan, who was diagnosed with a dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans in September 2022 after what he thought was a cyst turned out to be one of the rarest forms of cancer, is raising funds for FORCE Cancer to thank the charity for helping as he recovered, and through his treatment.

Force

Ryan spent three weeks recovering in hospital.
Photo: with permission.

East Devon

Ryan in hospital after his surgery to remove the cancer in his ankle.
Photo: with permission.

Finding his biggest challenge was learning to walk again, Ryan dreamed up a hike to raise funds for FORCE while raising awareness of the charity.

He has timed his walk to coincide with Sarcoma Awareness Month, while highlighting what he has called the ‘forgotten cancer’ – dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans makes up 0.05 per cent of all diagnosed forms of the disease.

Former kitchen designer Ryan, who recently shaved his head to raise funds for FORCE, has set up a JustGiving page for charity donations as he walks the East Devon Way.

East Devon

Ryan before he shaved his head for FORCE.
Photo: with permission.

East Devon

Ryan after his head shave.
Photo: with permission.

He said: “Having the independence, stamina and strength to disappear off into the local wilderness and walk the many footpaths in the rolling hills and serene greenery have been a huge part of my mental and physical rehabilitation.

“Now I’m recovering and back on my feet, I want to use my story and experience to raise awareness and raise money for an amazing charity.”

He added: “Every step of the way, I had support from FORCE nurses and support staff from my bedside to their walk-in centre,” said Ryan.

“They are the only cancer charity I have dealt with that doesn’t feel faceless. FORCE offers the human touch and that is what I needed and what every cancer patient needs. It’s a place where it feels like there are people who care and are there to help.”

Force

Ryan is seen here recovering at home after his surgery.
Photo: with permission.

Ryan, who was in hospital for three weeks, said the biggest challenge he faced was learning to walk again.

He said: “When I was finally able to go home, I was unable to walk without aid, and used a wheelchair to leave the house.

“I had community nurses come every day to redress the wound, and appointments back in hospital twice a week. Then the skin graft died. More antibiotics. Another skin graft four days before Christmas left me off my feet again.”

Ryan’s leaned he had rare cancer after he spent years dismissing a growth on his ankle as a ganglion cyst.

A spokeswoman for FORCE said: “He only pushed for further examination because he wanted to be sure before his baby son was able to walk that there was nothing sinister.

“The diagnosis came as a shock and treatment needed to be swift.

“He had major surgery lasting five and a half hours to remove the sarcoma from his ankle and reconstruct the area plus muscle and skin grafts.”

Ryan’s trek comes less than a year after major cancer surgery left him unable to walk.

He set off on Tuesday (July 18), walking from Lyme Regis to Exmouth , through Colyton, Farway, Sidbury, Aylesbeare Common and Woodbury Common, where he will be met by his wife, Sammy, and son Benjamin.

  • You can follow Ryan’s progress here, and make a donation to FORCE.

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