Alan Naylor is one of our longest-standing community volunteers. Over the past twenty years, Alan has raised close to £30,000 for Leukaemia Care through a range of events, including weekly quiz nights, discos and skydives.
Seeing as this week is Volunteers’ Week, we decided to have a chat with Alan to find out more about his unwavering dedication to Leukaemia Care.
What made you start fundraising for Leukaemia Care?
I was actually diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in 1999. I spent quite some time in Ronkswood Hospital in Worcester, where they manged to get me in to remission. After about five months I finally came out of there and I did almost exactly twelve months in remission, but then it came back, I’m afraid. I was rushed to the old QE in Birmingham (Queen Elizabeth Hospital) and I lived in there for over six months. So, over a three-year period, you could say I lost twelve months of my life.
It was at the QE where I ended up having a stem cell transplant. It was one of their first successful transplants, in actual fact. So, I actually became quite… I was going to say famous… ‘infamous’ would be the word. I was in the newspapers, radio, TV, all sorts. I thought I’d put this to some use, so I started trying to do something for charity. Also, after spending such a long time in hospital, it was about time I did a bit of pay back, shall we say.
I don’t know why I chose Leukaemia Care exactly, I think that maybe I’d got some paper work from them, or, the fact that you were fairly local.
What do you remember about your diagnosis?
I was diagnosed the day before Christmas Eve believe it or not, which was a bit of a shock. I started experiencing lots of colds, flu and felt very cold, I was almost shaking. I can’t explain it really, it was almost like I’d got the flu and I couldn’t shake it off. Coughing, colds, earaches, headaches, very, very tired and lifeless really, which considering I was running my own business at the time, was ridiculous because I had to keep going almost 24 hours a day. Within a few days I was in hospital and they had started chemotherapy. I had to sell the business almost instantly and just fight for my life basically, I suppose.
When did you start fundraising for us, and what sort of events have you done?
It must have been the early 2000s when I started fundraising for Leukaemia Care. You were in some very old offices in Worcester at the time, and now of course you are in the posh ones.
Over the years, we’ve done all sorts of events. I’ve slowed down these days, because I’m almost 70 now, but it’s still good fun. But, oh god, must be fifteen years or more.
I have done a couple of skydives, a small cycle ride – well I say “small”, it was one huge ride with about 26 people. I used to do discos and karaoke’s and things, but it’s slowed down a bit now. I think I had a new lease of life and decided well, let’s get on with it. So, once I got a bit better, I started to go out hosting karaoke’s and I was really enjoying myself, until about one or two o’clock in the morning sometimes. But I can’t do that anymore I’m afraid. I like to be home and in bed long before midnight these days, if I can.
I still do a regular Sunday evening charity quiz at my local pub for Leukaemia Care. It’s very handy because I’ve lived in Ashford Bank for thirty odd years, so everybody knows me round here, so I do quite well. You know, I enjoy it and it keeps me busy, shall we say.
Skydives? That sounds… exciting?
Skydives, oh dear… incredible. Twelve-thousand feet up and I think you’re doing 127mph almost instantly as you come out of the plane. The actual skydive itself takes about seven minutes, (obviously there is a lot of build up to that), but a wonderful experience.
You’re strapped to somebody else of course, but they do loosen the harness, so that it feels as if you’re on your own on your way down. They also let you have a go using the parachute, going left, going right, all this sort of business. Honestly really good fun.
I’ve done two now, and my daughters are trying to get me to do another one for my 70th birthday. But I’m not quite sure about that.
Tell me more about your pub quiz
It’s a weekly pub quiz at the Bell Inn, Redditch. It doesn’t make an awful lot, but it keeps me busy. This Sunday just gone, we made £40, a pound per person. That’s not every week, I wish I could get £40 worth of people there every week. Sometimes I’m down to about 15, other times its 20 – 25 people.
It takes me six hours to get a quiz ready, then it’s all over and done with within a couple of hours. But again, that keeps me busy through the week, getting questions ready and hosting it. It’s good fun, I try and make it light-hearted because most Sunday nights people have to get up on a Monday morning for work. So, I tend not to do it too late.
Do you think your diagnosis still affects you?
You never really get over it. It does still slow me down. Anytime you get a cold or a flu, your white cells, although you are in remission, there is almost this sort of Damocles still hanging over you, you know what I mean. I think general age I’ve just got to the point where I’ve started to slow down a bit anyway. I don’t think I could run my business anymore; I definitely couldn’t run a marathon.
I’ve done twenty years longer than they expected me to live. I was given a month to live three times. It didn’t bother me, I suppose, in the end, but when I woke up in intensive care, I could have had about fifty pence in my pocket or a million pounds I wouldn’t have cared. I was alive and that’s what matters.
Thank you, Alan!
We at Leukaemia Care would like to thank Alan for his continued support and commitment to Leukaemia Care. Alan has raised in excess of £29,000 for Leukaemia Care since he started, an absolutely incredible help to those affected by blood cancer. We would also like to thank every single volunteer that has collected and donated money in the past. Your generosity makes the care we provide a possibility.