Mountaineer focuses on his love of the great outdoors to help his cancer journey

Posted 14th November 2022

Tristan Jones-Roberts climbing a mountain

A keen mountaineer and Clatterbridge patient is using his love of the great outdoors to help him come to terms with a potentially devastating cancer diagnosis.

Tristan Jones-Roberts works as a leader of young people – who often have faced trauma – in outdoor activities in the Welsh mountains, which helps them come to terms with their experiences, build confidence, trust and communication skills.

But it was Tristan himself who used his life-long connection with nature to reinforce his mental wellbeing when he was diagnosed with advanced melanoma in October last year. He spoke of his experiences during International Stress Awareness Week (November 7-11), when health organisations highlight the need for people to find ways to manage mental distress.

Tristan, 30, who lives near Chester, said: “The last year has been a total rollercoaster. After noticing a lump in my groin, I was diagnosed with Stage 3c melanoma, with the cancer unfortunately having spread to 17 lymph nodes already and the risk of more rapid spread.”

Tristan developed a love of nature, folklore and mountain climbing as a child growing up in Wales and after his diagnosis, but before surgery to treat the cancer, he went on a climbing expedition with some friends.

“One of my greatest passions in life is my love and appreciation for the mountains of Wales,” said Tristan. “Just before surgery, my friends and I scaled the three highest peaks of England and Wales to give me a reminder of what I lived for.”

Tristan had some complications from the surgery which meant he was in extreme pain and had a lot of swelling which delayed the start of further treatment, but has now been having immunotherapy at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre since May.

He said: “Immunotherapy can itself make you feel tired so it was really important to me to get my strength back. I am in my sixth month of treatment and attend Clatterbridge regularly for blood tests to see how my body is responding and to check there aren’t any unwanted side effects.

“Everyone I’ve seen at the hospital has been wonderful, I can’t speak highly enough of the doctors and nurses who have been looking after me.”

One way he wanted to show his appreciation for his treatment was to join a charity walk to the top of Mount Snowdon in September, in aid of Clatterbridge Cancer Charity, and volunteered as a ranger to support those taking part.

“When I saw the organised Snowdon walk being advertised by the Clatterbridge Cancer Charity, I knew I needed to get involved,” said Tristan. “The mountains have been a great comfort throughout my life and have continued to be through my cancer diagnosis.

“For me the mountains are a constant. The mountains of Eryri (Snowdonia) will always be there no matter what drama comes to me in my life. They have been there before me and they will be there long after me. This notion brings great comfort in my darkest times and they act like guardians when I go wandering in that landscape.

“It is important, when you have a cancer diagnosis, to be mindful of your mental wellbeing as much as your physical wellbeing. For me and many others, being in nature is the way I can de-stress.”

The walk raised almost £14,000 for the Clatterbridge Cancer Charity, which will be directly reinvested into patient care at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.

Dr Anna Olsson-Brown, consultant oncologist at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, said: “Tristan is a great inspiration and has taken treatment in his stride. We will continue working closely with him as his treatment progresses.

“Here at Clatterbridge, we have one of the highest amounts of patients undergoing immunotherapy in the country. The treatment encourages a person’s own immune system to control and manage the cancer by targeting the affected cells and supporting the body in breaking them down.

“I’d like to echo Tristan’s words about cancer patients being mindful of finding ways to manage their mental wellbeing – being in the great outdoors obviously does this for him. We continue to wish Tristan all the best and are grateful to him for raising awareness and supporting our work.”