WHEN Ross Fripp was sick one morning, he assumed that he'd eaten something dodgy.

When it happened again a week later, he thought perhaps he should see his doctor.

Then he began to be sick regularly.

His doctors assumed that he had a gastric problem but various tests couldn't get to the root of the problem – until after a year of investigations, a brain scan revealed that rather than a stomach problem he had a brain tumour.

He was diagnosed with an ependymoma tumour, a fairly slow-growing cancer, which tends not to spread to other parts of the body but can recur.

Looking back, Ross says that he blanked out what was happening a bit, returning to work as a chiropractor the day after his diagnosis.

Three weeks later, in December 2014, he was being operated on at Southampton General Hospital. But his surgeons discovered a complication – the tumour had grown into his brain stem.

The surgery was more invasive than had been expected and while Ross had been warned about possible complications, he was shocked and upset by his symptoms.

He had double vision, couldn't speak or even swallow and was placed on a ventilator and fed through a tube in his stomach.

"It was very scary," says Ross, 30, who lived in Eastleigh at the time.

"The worst time was after about four or five days, when there hadn't been any improvement and I was afraid that that was how it was going to be.

"It was four weeks before I could manage a faint swallow. But then, at least I knew that things were happening and that I was improving."

After around six weeks, Ross was discharged and saw significant improvements over the following two and a half years.

His vision returned to normal, he was able to return to work after several months, and although he hasn't been able to take up running again, he has started cycling regularly.

Ross was determined to do something to say thank you for the treatment he received at Southampton General and has raised more than £11,000 for the Wessex Neurological Centre's Smile4Wessex fundraising campaign, by cycling the height of Everest!

"One issue I found difficulty was a paralysed vocal cord, this meant my airway became obstructed when trying to run, a passion of mine for about 13 years competing for Southampton Athletic Club prior to my surgery, at quite a competitive level," says Ross, who now lives in Cosham.

"This is something the illness has robbed me of, but I found a love for cycling, where the issue wasn't apparent, perhaps because of the position I am in, and with a lot of hard work and I did a bike ride for a charity called Brain Tumour Support, where I managed to raise more than £10,000.

"After this, I continued to go from strength to strength and have remained in contact with both of my brain surgeons, who are utterly, utterly amazing people, and I always felt I wished I had done some form of charity work that would show my gratitude towards them.

"Back in October 2018 I decided it was the right time to try and set myself a, frankly, absurd challenge of riding up and down a hill all day until my overall elevation gain exceeded Mount Everest. I did this in March, and donations have continued to come in. I decided to do such a challenge to not only raise money for the team of people who saved my life, but to also try to inspire other people into realising that great things can happen despite having such an illness, and to give hope to those who have recently been diagnosed with a brain tumour."

Ross presented a cheque to his head surgeon, Mr Paul Grundy at Southampton General Hospital on Thursday.

"I can't stress enough how amazing the level of care was at Southampton General Hospital," he adds.

"Especially on the Neurological intensive care unit, everyone was fantastic. Mr Paul Grundy and Mr Vas Apostolopoulos, are absolutely fantastic people."

He adds:"Obviously, I have cost the NHS a lot more than I've been able to raise for them, but I really wanted to go some way to saying 'thanks' for all the help I received."

* Donations can still be made to Ross' fundraiser. For more information, visit www.gofundme.com/hw565t