When super-fit karate champion Daz Ellis thought he was suffering from a trapped nerve, little did he know that weeks later he’d be diagnosed with a terminal disease.
The 50-year-old grandad of seven from Leyland was still taking part in - and winning - competitions when he first noticed the first signs of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) earlier this year.
The nine-time world champion was recommended to see a physiotherapist, but in July, when muscle twitching in his arm began to worsen, he started to lose weight and struggled to walk, he insisted on scans which revealed the devastating truth.
Daughter Emma, 31, said: “We were dreading that it was cancer, but it’s turned out worse. At least with cancer you hear of people beating it, but this will just get progressively worse.”
MND - which causes muscle wasting - kills a third within a year and more than half within two years of diagnosis.
Although Daz is still well enough to continue running martial arts lessons at his gym in Earnshaw Bridge, Leyland, now the race is on to raise £60,000 for pioneering treatment abroad.
It’s got to happen, time is of the essence. But I think we’ll do it, what has been donated so far has been amazing.
Partner Maureen Dearden, 39, said: “When he got the diagnosis he was given some tablets and told to get his affairs in order.
“He was told there was nothing that could be done, and on the first day we all kind of accepted it. But then individually we all started doing research and finding out what could be done.”
After having a hair analysis, which reveals the chemicals in his body and vitamins needed, daughters Emma and Sarah, 27, set about making a special alkaline diet for their dad, which they say has energised him and lead to him gaining weight.
Son Gaz, 33, also sought information from a friend with connections with a laboratory in America about stem cell treatment, which the family have been told has an 87 per cent success rate at stopping or slowing down the disease.
As the treatment is not available on the NHS, the family want to raise £56,000 for two lots of treatment at a Russian clinic.
So far, a web campaign and local fundraising has managed to secure £10,000 within days.
Gaz said: “It’s got to happen, time is of the essence. But I think we’ll do it, what has been donated so far has been amazing.”
Daz, a 6th Dan in traditional Shukokai Karate and Freestyle Karate, has been competing at National and international level for over two decades. While he is still able to, he is determined to continue running training sessions for children and adults at his gym, NSKA Martial Arts and Fitness Centre in Earnshaw Bridge Mill, Longmeanygate.
He has also put himself through a sky diving course while suffering the symptoms of the disease, which the family say is typical of his outgoing and “cheeky chappy” character.
Maureen said: “He’s very determined and he’s told me he’s not going to give in to this. But the prognosis isn’t good. The average person lasts between two to five years after diagnosis and only about 10 per cent last over 10 years.
“Some people have died in the first eight weeks of diagnosis and some end up paraplegic in the first six months. So the sooner we can get this money together, the better.
“The outcry from the martial arts community has been tremendous, and also from people who know him locally.
“He’s very well thought of, he’s a Leyland legend, not just in the fighting world but also in the area.”
Several fundraising events have been planned for coming weeks, and donations are being taken online at: https://www.gofundme.com/2sdyphh4
Alternatively, contact NSKA Martial Arts and Fitness Centre, Unit 6, Earnshaw Bridge Mill, Longmeanygate, Leyland, PR26 7PA.