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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Six Nations chief industrial officer Craig Maxwell has been a key determine in rugby’s corridors of energy… now, after receiving a brutal terminal lung most cancers analysis, he is on a mission to encourage others and lift 1000’s for charity


Craig Maxwell desires his story, his legacy, and this interview to display the facility of resilience.

Of preventing again. Of not giving up. Of raging towards the dying of the sunshine.

As he bravely, overtly, and truthfully discusses his brutal terminal most cancers analysis, each phrase spoken by the chief industrial officer of the Six Nations is as inspiring as it’s heartbreaking.

‘I used to be informed initially of July I’ve between 10 and 18 months left,’ says Maxwell, who’s simply 41.

‘I’m scared. I’m scared concerning the issues I received’t be capable of affect. I get all my affairs so as and arranging and paying for my very own funeral.

Craig Maxwell with his wife Tracey and their two children – Isla and Zach

Craig Maxwell along with his spouse Tracey and their two youngsters – Isla and Zach

‘I would like all the things achieved so my spouse doesn’t have to fret about something. All she’ll should do is get up and fear about herself and the youngsters.

‘We’re taking them to Disneyland Paris however I’ve received no want for many huge journeys. I simply wish to cuddle my youngsters, watch films with them on the couch, and have grownup conversations with them about life, what I’ve discovered, and what’s essential. I’ll inform them it’s going to be OK.

‘I wish to set them up for the longer term regardless that I received’t be there. That’s my dream. My huge driver is I would like my youngsters to see there are a number of essential issues in life.

‘It’s about household and buddies.

‘It’s essential to not be defeated. After we informed my youngsters I had terminal most cancers, the very first thing my daughter mentioned was “Daddy, I do know you’ll do all the things to struggle this. I’m so happy with you.” It made me the proudest man ever. I wish to present our youngsters that even within the face of adversity you possibly can – and can – choose your self up and make a distinction.’

Maxwell – who has been a key determine in northern hemisphere rugby for the final decade – is definitely doing that. Confronted with restricted time and in a scenario the place it might be simple to crumble and quit, he’s utilizing his unenviable place as a pressure for good.

Via a sequence of epic challenges, he’s defying sickness and making an attempt to boost £300,000 to help the QuicDNA Mission which goals to shorten the time it takes to diagnose lung most cancers in sufferers in Wales. He has already raised £260,000 by operating the London Marathon in April and finishing a motorcycle journey from Cardiff to Tenby, the place he was educated.

Regardless that his most cancers has now grown immune to Osimertinib – the drug he has been taking since final yr – Maxwell will on Monday be a part of one other bike journey from Cardiff to Paris which goals to boost extra much-needed cash.

‘You by no means assume you’re going to hear the phrases you might have incurable most cancers. They have been mentioned to me simply after two o’clock on September 8 final yr,’ Maxwell says.

‘Being 40 on the time with two younger youngsters, it’s one thing you by no means assume will occur. The entire perspective of your life adjustments.’

Born in Pembrokeshire, Maxwell has had a outstanding profession in rugby. In 2004, he approached the Welsh Rugby Union and supplied to work for them without spending a dime to show his price.

He was quickly employed after which after a stint with Underneath Armour, Maxwell returned to the WRU to grow to be their industrial director. He doubled Welsh rugby’s revenues and was on the centre of its corridors of energy throughout one of many organisation’s most profitable intervals.

In 2020, Maxwell joined the Six Nations however simply over a yr later, he started to really feel unwell.

It was the beginning of an extended, painful and disturbing journey which culminated with the worst doable information.

‘My dream was to at some point be WRU chief govt,’ Maxwell says. ‘I feel I used to be on the suitable path earlier than all this however it received’t be taking place now.’

It was summer season 2021 when Maxwell suspected one thing was unsuitable. He felt torpid and within the months that adopted, he was breathless, developed a cough, and had chest pains.

‘I ought to have gone and received checked out earlier,’ Maxwell says.

‘We’re all busy and generally neglect small adjustments in our well being. I urge everybody to get checked as quickly as doable if they think something is unsuitable.’

In June 2022, docs discovered an eight-centimetre tumour in his left lung however it took 72 days for the official analysis to return again as most cancers.

The crushing information rocked Maxwell and his household.

‘The double whammy was discovering out I had Epidermal Progress Issue Receptor (EGFR) lung most cancers which was dangerous sufficient but additionally discovering out right away it was terminal, incurable and inoperable because it had unfold to my bones,’ Maxwell says.

Maxwell (centre) and friends after completing a bike ride from Cardiff to Tenby earlier this year

Maxwell (centre) and buddies after finishing a motorcycle journey from Cardiff to Tenby earlier this yr

‘I used to be on palliative care right away. My spouse Tracey and I had been ushered into fairly a tiny room. I’d seen in films after they inform individuals they’ve most cancers they usually don’t do it in a tiny little broom cabinet. I used to be considering it wasn’t dangerous information as a result of I didn’t assume they might do this in slightly cabinet on a ward. Sadly, I used to be unsuitable.’

Roughly 39,000 persons are recognized with lung most cancers every year within the UK. Round 15 per cent of these have EGFR mutations that are extra widespread in ladies than males and in individuals who have by no means smoked or have been mild people who smoke.

Maxwell’s life – and that of his nearest and dearest – modified instantly and perpetually that September day.

He and Tracey have two younger youngsters – Isla, 12, and Zach who’s eight.

‘The essential issues are family and friends. Every thing else pales into insignificance,’ Maxwell says. ‘My line has all the time been I wish to do that with class. I wish to be robust for different individuals. There have been occasions the place it’s been onerous and I haven’t achieved that.

‘I fear generally if I’m not accepting it. I do have moments after I assume I’m OK. I even have actually darkish moments however I understand how to take care of them now. I take myself off on the bike.

‘I’m certain individuals have seen me biking or operating spherical Penarth crying! When I’m coaching I really feel like I’m beating most cancers and I say to myself that it picked the unsuitable physique when it picked on me. However it should win its battles extra sooner or later and that can be an actual take a look at of me staying robust.’

As we discuss over what was imagined to be lunch in Penarth simply exterior Cardiff, it turns into obvious our order has been forgotten. One thing which could have beforehand been a reason for irritation or frustration now issues little to Maxwell. There are way more essential issues.

‘It’s our nine-year marriage ceremony anniversary as we speak,’ Maxwell reveals after we meet. ‘Tracey and I made a decision to not have a good time it as I don’t need this to be our final.

‘Our goal is to have a good time 10 years subsequent yr. Our relationship has by no means been stronger. Telling the kids was completely horrific. It ripped my coronary heart out.

‘I don’t assume any mum or dad ought to ever have to try this. Our youngsters don’t deserve the ache that’s going to return with this. It’s unfair.’

Earlier than we begin this interview, Maxwell reiterates he desires to talk overtly and truthfully about his most cancers expertise – nonetheless painful it proves – in a bid to assist others.

Nothing is off the desk. Powerful questions are requested.

For the final eight months or so, Osimertinib has allowed Maxwell to proceed to work for the Six Nations, reside a traditional life along with his household, and undertake some heroic fundraising challenges.

The cruelty of lung most cancers – often called the ‘silent killer’ – is that it does untold harm beneath the floor.

Signs may be few and much between after which hastily, it’s too late.

Maxwell doesn’t look ailing. In current months, he has led on the signing off of serious new Six Nations broadcast and industrial offers. He has all the time labored onerous.

However now, along with his most cancers rising immune to the medication, he’ll step again from rugby within the coming weeks to spend extra time with Tracey, Isla and Zach.

Maxwell will start chemotherapy therapy in August. He hopes contributing to the QuicDNA Mission can be his greatest legacy.

‘It took 72 days with a great deal of biopsies, exams and journeys to hospital to work out my sickness,’ Maxwell explains. ‘These 72 days have been the toughest. My psychological well being was gone fully.

‘The uncertainty was the worst factor. The QuicDNA Mission is a pilot which makes use of blood exams or liquid biopsies as a substitute of needle biopsies to assist detect incurable most cancers earlier.

‘There has already been thousands and thousands of kilos raised to help it and we wish to show it really works.

Maxwell ran the 2023 London Marathon as part of his incredible fundraising to support cancer treatment in Wales

Maxwell ran the 2023 London Marathon as a part of his unbelievable fundraising to help most cancers therapy in Wales

‘Lung most cancers is the largest killer in Wales. It kills greater than the subsequent two cancers mixed. The common wait to get a needle biopsy take a look at is 62 days. Inside that point, a whole lot of sufferers get very ailing which implies they don’t reply to sure remedies. In some instances, they move away.

‘Dropping that point from 62 days to hopefully 30 will make an enormous distinction by way of size of life and coverings sufferers can obtain.

‘The pilot is underway and this funding helps ship it. If the docs can show it really works, then in time it may be rolled out throughout all of Wales. The best way I’m constructed is I wish to have a goal.

‘After going by what I’ve, I wished to assist.’

Maxwell is not going to solely go away a legacy in rugby, however hopefully one within the healthcare system too.

On the WRU, he was the industrial linchpin as the boys’s nationwide aspect received Six Nations titles in 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2019 below Warren Gatland.

Maxwell led on quite a few main contracts together with bringing Underneath Armour to Wales and the naming rights deal for what’s now Principality Stadium. On the Six Nations, he secured a primary title sponsor for the ladies’s event when TikTok got here on board. At a tough time for rugby, Maxwell is optimistic about its future.

He sat on the WRU govt board at 27 and is vastly passionate concerning the recreation in his nation. ‘I’ve made buddies for all times in rugby and that’s been the largest success of my profession. Once I had this horrible information, I felt the arms of rugby wrapped round me. It lifted me and my household up,’ he provides.

‘Each single union, companion, broadcaster and sponsor has been wonderful. I’ve been overwhelmed with the help I’ve had. That’s paled my skilled achievements into insignificance.

‘It’s concerning the buddies I’ve made and the relationships I’ve constructed.

‘That’s what I’ll take away from rugby. It’s been overwhelming. Individuals speak about rugby values and a few say they’re below menace however as an individual who has wanted assist from the sport, I can let you know the game has been wonderful in supporting me and my household.

‘The WRU and Six Nations particularly have achieved all they will. I do know the rugby household can be there to take care of mine after I’m gone too. It’s wonderful what rugby can do.

‘When the chips are down, individuals come ahead.’

As ‘lunch’ involves an finish, Maxwell is requested if he has the rest so as to add.

Maxwell’s inspirational story is one of true resilience

Maxwell’s inspirational story is one in every of true resilience

He factors out the liquid biopsy machines which take a look at for most cancers value £1million every. He reiterates the necessity for most of the people to donate to most cancers charities. Maxwell provides that the forgotten order is not any downside because it solely helps to carry ahead a deliberate afternoon along with his household.

‘They’ve mentioned they may identify one of many machines “Maxwell” sooner or later,’ he says with a smile.

‘I wish to be remembered for what I did in life and I feel that’s fairly cool.’

To donate to Craig Maxwell’s funding for The QuicDNA Mission and Velindre Most cancers Centre, go to: https://craigmaxwell-quicdna.justgiving-sites.com

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