Cancer survivor to accomplish lifelong goal of sparring for charity after 15 years in a wheelchair
A cancer survivor, who has been unable to walk for 15 years, will achieve a lifelong ambition when enters the ring in his wheelchair for a charity boxing match this month.
Andrew Barkess, of Ruben Avenue, South Shields, was only 21 when he was diagnosed with a spinal sarcoma in 2005 and given only a week to live.
His one chance of survival was a rare operation to remove 30cm of his spine and replace it with rods.
The procedure left him completely paralysed from the chest down and dependent on a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Fifteen years later he is preparing to take part in a charity boxing match to raise money for terminally ill cancer patients at St Cuthbert's Hospice in Durham.
The match will be a dream come true for the 36-year-old, who only started boxing in December 2019 in a bid to turn his life around.
Andrew beat cancer but experienced depression in the years afterwards and turned to alcohol to cope.
Four years ago he met his girlfriend, they moved in together and he pledged to make a change.
“I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, I needed to change things up,” said Andrew.
“I wanted to get fit. My endurance was awful and I wanted to be able to go further in my wheelchair.
“I’ve always wanted to box, so I contacted Harton and Westoe Boxing Club to see if they took on disabled people and they said yes.”
Now he trains three times a week at the club and couldn’t turn down the opportunity to compete when it was presented to him.
On Saturday, March 21 he will go up against seasoned local boxer Steph Comerford, who volunteered to sit in a chair for the match at Rainton Meadows arena.
“I’m always up for a challenge,” said Andrew.
“I’m looking forward to it but I’m scared as well - I’ve sparred against Steph and he’s very quick.”
He continued: “As crazy as it sounds I actually enjoy getting punched – it reminds you that you’re alive.
“Boxing has improved my confidence, my stamina and my endurance and it gives me something to look forward to.”
Andrew is hoping his efforts will inspire others who are living with disabilities to follow their dreams too.
He said: “Ever since I’ve been in a wheelchair I have wanted to do something to inspire others who are disabled.
“I know what it’s like to be at rock bottom doing nothing with your life, but now I want to make my family proud of me for getting through what I have.”
He added: “I’m proof that if you have a goal and you set your mind to it you can achieve it.”
Tickets for the match are £25 and available via the Box Clever Events page on Facebook.
To donate visit Andrew’s Go Fund Me page.