Harpenden South Pole explorer urges support for World Cancer Day

PUBLISHED: 09:39 06 February 2017 | UPDATED: 12:54 06 February 2017

Rob Smith reaching the South Pole on day 34 of his journey.

Rob Smith reaching the South Pole on day 34 of his journey.

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An explorer and cancer survivor who has just returned from the South Pole is using his adventure to raise awareness of the disease.

Rob Smith wearing Cancer Research UK unity bands.Rob Smith wearing Cancer Research UK unity bands.

An explorer and cancer survivor who has just returned from the South Pole is using his adventure to raise awareness of the disease.

Harpenden resident Rob Smith, 43, was the first British explorer to pioneer a new route to the South Pole in about 100 years, reaching the Pole with two others on January 9.

Rob was diagnosed with cancer just weeks after losing his best friend and his mum to the disease.

His best friend Neil Crisp died in 2012 after being diagnosed with oesophageal and lung cancer and given weeks to live, leaving behind a wife and baby daughter. A months later Rob’s mum Maureen also died after suffering from breast cancer for 20 years.

Rob Smith wearing Cancer Research UK unity bands.Rob Smith wearing Cancer Research UK unity bands.

Rob was then told he had testicular cancer and would need surgery and chemotherapy.

“When I was diagnosed it knocked me for six and it changed my perspective,” he said. “I want to look back on my life and think that I’ve done some incredible things and achieved a lot.

“In a way cancer is sometimes tougher for the families because the person receiving treatment know how they feel and everyone else just worries because it’s the big C word.”

Rob, who works as an IT sales director for Dell EMC, raised money for Cancer Research UK through his epic 650km trek to the South Pole on skis, as well as a 160km trek to the North Pole last year.

He said: “Obviously reaching the pole was a very special day. It was an incredible day for all three of us. There were moments in the glacier when we were seeing things that no human being had ever seen.

“It’s lovely to be back and to see my daughter. I was away for two months.”

Speaking about his fellow explorers, Eric Philips and Keith Tuffley, Rob said: “I do miss them having spent all that time together. Unfortunately none of them live in the UK - Eric lives in Hobart and Keith lives in Switzerland. We are going to catch up in April because they’re coming to the UK.”

In temperatures as low as -35C, Rob lost part of his earlobe to frostbite. “It took a centimetre of earlobe off,” he said. “It was probably more scary when one of the other guys said ‘Rob your ear’s black’.

“It’s not that bad it’s actually more painful now for some reason.”

Despite the struggles of the journey, Rob never regretted his trip: “In that situation you just really have to stay positive. I always wanted to be there.”

Rob, who is now back in Herts and reunited with his 11-year-old daughter Ella, aims to raise £5,000 in total for the research into treating and preventing cancer.

Cancer Research UK fundraising manager Sarah Collins said: “Rob has taken on an exceptional challenge to raise vital funds for our life-saving research and we would like to congratulate him on this incredible achievement and say a huge thank you for all his support.”

You can still donate to Cancer Research UK via Rob’s fundraising page.


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