Brendan Carroll: Action Cancer Trekker Profile

20 November 2018

Brendan Carroll, 55 from Newry, was forced to reevaluate his priorities when his wife received a cancer diagnosis in 2016. This marked the beginning of his journey with Action Cancer, which saw him sign up for the Great Wall of China Trek and smash his £3,750 fundraising target within a few short months.

Commenting on the decision to register for the China Trek, Brendan said:

“Initially it was the adventure that motivated me to sign up. I love travelling and let’s face it, it’s not every day that you get to go to China and walk on the Great Wall and experience rural China, not the touristy bit. It was a brilliant experience and a very well run trip. Some of the hotels were rough and ready but it was real and I had an absolute blast.

“The hardest thing is making the decision to try. Going to China was never an issue for me but getting started fundraising was challenging. But my wife and I both come from big families so we had plenty of support. Action Cancer is a great charity, they are in the premier league in providing guidance and support in raising funds and that makes it easier for us as fundraisers.”

As a solo traveler, Brendan joined a group of 34 others who journeyed to China on 27th October 2018 to undertake the grueling 9 day challenge. Everyone has their own different reasons for signing up to trek for Action Cancer but they are all united in the mission of saving lives and supporting local people affected by cancer.

“A lot of people in the group met for the first time on the coach to the airport. In fact I’d never met the guy I was sharing a room with in my life before and we’d a great time together but we’d a great time with everyone.

“I can’t speak for everyone else but for me the experience was life affirming; you come away thinking that there is so much good out there. People can be very negative and cancer in itself is a very negative subject and it’s a frightening subject but you get together in your trekking group and you have this sort of strength.

 “The incredible thing about the Action Cancer trek is the way the group unites around a shared motivation. Some people, like myself, didn’t have cancer but had been affected by it so it’s a common bond, it’s why we all signed up and it laid a solid foundation for real friendship.”

The cancer diagnosis received by Brendan’s wife Anita had a profound impact on both their lives serving to illuminate truths which are often buried under the daily act of living.

“My wife Anita was diagnosed with cancer in April 2016. Luckily the tumor was encapsulated, it hadn’t spread so she had surgery in May 2016 and by removing the kidney they removed the cancer.

“The scary thing is that nobody realises it’s going to happen in the first place. They couldn’t put an exact date on how long Anita had her tumor for but they said it was years. She doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, she walks, she has a good appetite, drinks lots of water and does everything right. She would be the last person you think would get cancer.

“The one thing I’ve taken from this is that life is very, very short and it is incredibly precious. People pay lip service to the need to make the most of life and live it to the fullest, and I am as guilty as anybody else of doing that. But when cancer rears its head, when it’s actually put in front of you, it makes you realise that time really is short. We both had to reappraise things in life and agreed that if you need or want to do anything in your life just do it, do it now because you don’t know what’s around the corner.”

Having had such a great experience in China Brendan has already signed up for Action Cancer’s Cambodia Trek to Angkor Wat, 16th – 24th November 2019. The cost to register for the Cambodia trek is £200 per person with each participant required to raise a minimum of £3,800 for Action Cancer. This fundraising target is highly achievable and as Brendan explains the feeling of achievement of hitting your target far outweighs any fears it might evoke.

“You can sit around and make excuses for not doing things and that’s probably where I was two years. The China Trek and the training I had to do for it made me fitter and healthier and that was the kick start for me. I’m determined to keep going with my weekend walking to be as healthy as possible because I want Anita and I to grow old together.

“Initially, I was a little apprehensive about the fundraising target but the Action Cancer Fundraising Team are very supportive. They helped me to get my fundraising started and from there it was easy. When you hit your target, you feel like you’ve achieved something incredible, you’ve raised thousands of pounds to help other people if you only think of it from that point of view that is phenomenal! The icing on the cake is going somewhere else with a fantastic crowd of people.”

Action Cancer is hosting an Information Night on Tuesday 20th November at 7.30pm in Action Cancer House, in Belfast, for anyone interested in finding out more about the Cambodia Trek. You'll learn more about the route planned, find out how Action Cancer's Fundraising Team can support you as you work towards your fundraising target and hear from people like Brendan who is reveling in his newfound enthusiasm for adventure challenges.

“My advice to anybody is: don’t even think about it, go ahead and do it! If you can free up those 10 days in November next year all you have to do is ask the question: ‘Will you sponsor me for Action Cancer?’ The worst people can do is say no and there’s no one in this country who has not been affected by cancer in one way or another. Just go for it, my only regret is that I hadn’t started sooner - think of all the places I could have been to!


“I’m really looking forward to Cambodia, to experiencing a new country and a culture that I know very little about. I would be very surprised if there is not at least 25% of the people on the China trek who will go to Cambodia because we all had such a good time. It’s not a 5 star resort holiday, there is work to be done when you get there, you will be inconvenienced, you’ll be uncomfortable but that’s all part of it. It is physically demanding and will be difficult but that’s why it’s called a challenge and that’s why the emotional rewards for completing it are so high.”

To find out more about the Cambodia Trek please contact Lynn Sanderson by emailing [email protected] or call 028 9080 3349.