An emotional Phil Spencer has spoken about his determination to help end the devastation caused by childhood brain tumours after witnessing first-hand the impact of the disease.
TV favourite Phil can be seen choking back tears as he talks on camera about preparing to lead a team taking on Everest in the Alps, a gruelling expedition to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity.
The co-presenter of Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location says he wants to make a difference for youngsters like Spencer family friend 11-year-old Toby Ritchie, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of just five.
Dad-of-two Phil says: “If one of my kids got a brain tumour, I would absolutely want the right help there. At the moment, it’s not.”
Toby – whose parents, Rob and Tanya, are friends of Phil and his wife Fiona – has undergone surgery and gruelling chemotherapy treatment to keep his tumour at bay but its position on his brain stem meant it could not be fully removed.
Like thousands of other children around the world, Toby lives with the effects of the disease and its treatment, including balance problems and fatigue.
Phil, who will head a five-strong team of fellow Hampshire dads on the expedition beginning in Switzerland on March 5, says: “We’re going to have a tough four days up a mountain but [it’s] nothing compared with what they go through.”
The team will climb the height of Everest – 8848 metres or 5.5 miles – on skis fitted with ‘skins’ that give them grip.
They will sleep in bunk-beds in a mountain cabin and spend up to 12 hours a day out on the snow, burning an average of 10,000 calories a day – the equivalent of running three back-to-back marathons.
It’s the second time Phil has taken on the Everest in the Alps challenge, which calls for intense physical training and mental preparation in the weeks beforehand.
He managed the feat last year despite breaking a rib ahead of departure-day – and he reveals that co-presenter Kirstie Allsopp feared he might not return from the climb in 2018.
He said: “ Kirstie thinks I’m absolutely mad! She thought I was mad last time. And actually she was quite worried. It was very sweet because she was worried about safety, and my heart. And would I actually come back?”
Money raised by Phil and others through the unique endurance test will help The Brain Tumour Charity to fund the Everest Centre for research into low-grade (slower-growing) paediatric brain tumours.
The centre brings together experts from Germany and the UK to investigate the causes of low-grade brain tumours and develop and trial new treatments for the disease.
It was set up after Toby’s dad, HSBC executive Rob Ritchie, founded Everest in the Alps in 2015 to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity in the wake of his son’s diagnosis.
Phil says he decided to tackle the challenge again because he knows the funds raised for The Brain Tumour Charity and the Everest Centre – more than £4m since 2015 – are making a real difference to children like Toby.
Phil said: “Toby’s a great little lad and he leads as normal a life as possible but he faces huge challenges.
“He’s had some dark times in his life, and the family’s life as well. And who’s to say they won’t come back?
“He’s a brave little boy. But he’s one of 26,000 brave little people across the world facing those challenges.”
Recalling the ‘relentlessness’ of the climb from Everest in the Alps last year, Phil says: “What will keep us going as a team is knowing that we’re making a difference. And The Brain Tumour Charity and the Everest Centre need that support and need us to make that difference.”
Phil’s is one of three teams taking part in this year’s Everest in the Alps challenge, which begins and ends in Verbier.
Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “We’re thrilled that Phil has joined this band of passionate supporters of the charity who put themselves through so much to help children affected by a brain tumour.
“Their extraordinary efforts for The Brain Tumour Charity have allowed us to offer real hope to families whose lives are changed forever by a childhood brain tumour diagnosis.
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