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Young farmer beats leukemia to make show debut - and takes class win

From spitting blood to losing his hair and, at one point, going blind, young farmer Bryn Roberts came perilously close to losing his battle with leukemia.

Ryan   Wood

Ryan   Wood
Pic: Daily Post Wales
Pic: Daily Post Wales

He endured three courses of chemotherapy, seeing his weight plunge by a third, before emerging from four months in hospital with a renewed zest for life.

After being given the all-clear four months ago, he vowed to establish a pedigree Welsh Black herd - and to start showing them on the public stage.


Last Saturday, at Caernarfon’s North Wales Show, he made his show debut – and walked away with a class win and a section sash.


And if more proof were needed that his life is now firmly back on track, on Monday he returned to work after eight months away from his milking job at Aled Jones’ Hendy Farm, Caernarfon.


“I feel as if I’ve been given a new lease of life,” the 22-year-old told Daily Post Wales.


“I don’t need asking twice to do anything now – I’ll give anything a go.”

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On his show debut with Beti Ddu (Pic: Daily Post Wales)
On his show debut with Beti Ddu (Pic: Daily Post Wales)

Last year, the former Glynllifon student moved back to Penisarwaun from Denbigh to take over his grandfather’s holding at Rhoswian. Parents Ifan and Susan live nearby.


To make ends meet – the farm had just 100 Cheviot cross ewes and 10 suckler cattle – he took on work at Hendy farm, where he combined milking with calf rearing.


One day last October he arrived for work at 5.30am feeling unwell.


“I had bruises all over my arms,” said Bryn.


“I thought I must have been kicked by the heifers.


"I didn’t feel good in the parlour and Aled wanted me to go home, but I just carried on.”


A couple of days later, he suffered severe toothache.


Knowing that Aled’s son, Prysor, was a dentist, Bryn booked an appointment.


“He pulled one of my teeth but it wouldn’t stop bleeding.


"I think he must have thought I had gum disease.”

By that weekend, having seen a doctor, Bryn was barely able to walk.


He checked himself into Ysbyty Gwynedd for blood tests and, at 5.30am the following morning, he was transferred to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, where he learnt of his blood cancer diagnosis.


“When they told me, I thought I’d be back in the parlour on the Monday morning,” he said.


“I didn’t know what leukaemia was.”


Reality dawned when he was transferred back to Bangor. There he was told he faced a four-month spell in the Alaw ward at Ysbyty Gwynedd.


Weight loss


From 80kg, his weight plunged to 55kg. The third course of chemo was the worst – he lost all vision for two weeks.


Family and friends called regularly to gather around his bed and keep his spirits up.


And all the while he was motivated to recover by the pictures that adorned his hospital wall: his grandfather, Len Parry, had taken photos of the farm’s four remaining cattle, and sent them to the ward.


“When I fell ill, I had to sell the sucklers so that Taid (grandfather) could cope over the winter,” said Bryn.


“But we still had three crosses plus Beti, a Welsh Black heifer. Taid took pictures of them and I put them on the wall to remind me of home. The hospital staff thought they were my dogs!”


After being discharged, he had to return to the hospital for his final blood test results. “The doctor drew the curtains around my bed, which wasn’t a good sign, but she told me I was all-clear. It was fantastic news.”

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Now back on the farm at Rhoswian, his weight has recovered and his strength continues to return.


In May he fulfilled the first of his hospital bed vows when buying a 10-month-old Welsh Black calf at Dolgellau’s society sale. This, he hopes, will become the foundation of a new pedigree herd.


His second pledge was to venture on to the show circuit. This he did on Saturday, at the halter of 24-month-old Beti Ddu, whose photos had kept him company during his hospital stay.


She duly won the maiden heifer class before standing reserve overall in the British Native Breeds section.


Everyone on the showground was delighted for Bryn after his ordeal.


“For a while it was touch and go, especially during the third chemo,” he admitted.


“I’m still not back full-time at Hendy but I feel good – I feel as though I’ve been given a second chance.


“I’m now looking forward to getting on with life.”


Source: Daily Post Wales

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