A young man in phenomenal shape, Trevor Nettleton was working for David Stalker Excavating at a job site in Chemainus when he collapsed and had a grand mal seizure.
A 19-year-old at the time, Nettleton had recently graduated from Ladysmith Secondary School and was playing high-level hockey when his life came to a screeching halt.
“There weren’t enough cells to fully diagnosis it but they were almost a hundred per cent sure I had brain cancer,” Nettleton told the Chronicle from Port Alice where he and 22 Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team riders were set to depart last weekend.
“I definitely ride with that in mind that at one point in my life I was having the same scare and had the same detrimental physical limitations but now here I am riding a bike across the Island.”
MRIs at the time revealed a shadow across Nettleton’s brain, but there was never anything definitive that led doctors to prescribe chemotherapy or radiation.
Now a member of the Nanaimo RCMP, he vividly recounts how his life was “thrown into a spiral” as he was bound to a wheelchair for some time, unable to walk, remember names or even summon the mental strength to coordinate a meal.
Gradually, however, as weeks went by what doctors had observed on the MRIs began to shrink until only scar tissue remained.
“Mine kind of went away and I got on with it, I didn’t have to deal with all the needles, and the poking and the prodding, and the chemicals, so I can definitely appreciate what parents and kids have had to go through for this but certainly not to the same degree,” he said.
“That also motivates me to know that what we’re doing here is to make it easier for them as they’re going through something much more drastic.”
The Nettleton family history runs deep in the local community. His grandfather Harold was the pastor at the Bethal Tabernacle and Nettleton himself was born and raised in town, graduating from LSS in 2002 before moving to Nanaimo.
Cancer has also been prevalent disease on both his own, as well as his wife’s side of the family.
“It’s definitely been something that’s affected my family in more ways than one, so not only am I doing this for the kids and the opportunity to fundraise for them, but also just to pay tribute to those in my family that I’ve lost, or who have battled and came out of it.”
Prior to starting his training for the ride over six months ago Nettleton hadn’t been on a bike in eight years, but had plenty of physical endurance from running and playing hockey.
The closeness of the Tour riders was evident from day one when they came together for the first meeting and all exchanged hugs.
“My whole team is family to me. They’re people that I’ll keep in contact with for the rest of my life and you become part of everyone’s upbringing and motivation,” he said.
Among his teammates is Shane Cobrough, who attended Davis Road Elementary School and is now also a member of the Nanaimo RCMP.
But, Nettleton has also been fortunate to form close bonds with Junior Riders Natalie and Carson who will both be on hand when the Tour enters Nanaimo on Sunday. The peleton makes its way to Ladysmith the following day.
“They are a big reason why I ride and they both battled cancer and survived,” he said. “It touches your heart in a way that I didn’t anticipate. There’s a huge family element to what we’re doing… it’s not just a bike ride, it’s a whole thing that we do as a family for other families, for other kids, you don’t realize how much you’ll get ingrained in it until you start doing it.”
Nettleton said he expects the whole two weeks to be a memorable journey with many special parts, but that seeing those close to him when the Tour arrives locally will no doubt be emotional.
“My family and friends who experienced this with me when I was younger, they understand how important this ride is to me. It’s definitely more for the kids but there’s an element there that I’m doing it to prove it to myself as well,” he said.