VIDEO: Meet the 73-year-old karate kid from Crosshaven who is giving cancer the chop

VIDEO: Meet the 73-year-old karate kid from Crosshaven who is giving cancer the chop
Tommy Burns spars with Gar Fleming. Picture: Dan Linehan

HE may have lost three stone in weight since his cancer returned in July but 73-year-old fitness fanatic Tommy Burns has no intention of letting the C word win.

The four-time Tae Kwon Do black belt holder is using his sport, his training, and his fitness to win his ongoing battle with cancer. Despite his on-going health problems his goal in life is to beat cancer and in sport, it is to achieve his fifth black belt by the age of 76 and his sixth dan by age 81.

Tommy Burns with members of the Crosshaven Taekwondo Club. Picture: Dan Linehan
Tommy Burns with members of the Crosshaven Taekwondo Club. Picture: Dan Linehan

Sickness is not going to be a reason for failure in his eyes.

He intends to beat it again and in the meantime, he continues with his daily routine of training the next generation of martial arts experts in Crosshaven and enjoying his life with his wife Anne.

“I believe fitness, the discipline and concentration of Tae Kwon Do has played a massive role in me getting through what should be a very difficult time in anyone’s life,” said Burns.

Burns was diagnosed with stomach cancer 13 years ago where he had half of him stomach taken away. Not realising the seriousness of his illness at the time, Burns believed being so fit was key to him making a speedy recovery.

“I had a massive tumour in my stomach, however, I didn’t realise I had it as I was training away and working seven nights a week.

“Doing sit-ups, getting kicks etc you would imagine you would feel such a growth inside you. But I didn’t.

“I am a great believer in letting your body know what it’s doing. 

“For nine months I had a craving for cabbage, so obviously I was looking for iron, and that is how my cancer was diagnosed. When they took my blood, my iron levels were so low yet I still had loads of energy, which confused the consultants.

“They believed I should have been so fatigued and shook, but I know myself being so active distracted me from feeling the way I should have, I suppose.”

Tommy getting a kiss from his wife Anne. Picture: Dan Linehan
Tommy getting a kiss from his wife Anne. Picture: Dan Linehan

Last July the father of two and grandfather, who is married to Anne received bad news that his cancer had returned.

Only recently just finished treatment, Burns is as positive as ever that he can continue his normal routine of training six days a week doing what he loves and beat cancer for the second time.

“You look to the positives and that’s all I ever do. I never stopped training while in treatment.

“Oncologist Seamus O’Reilly was excellent and helped me a lot by explaining everything to me.

“I choose to not look at the side effects of my treatment because I believed in having a positive approach going forward.

“Reading about those side effects I would imagine could affect many people in many different ways, and that’s not what I wanted to experience.

“I was going to live a normal life and try to continue my normal routine for as long as I could, as after all this is what made me happy.

“With regards to training, I continued doing everything, however, I had to substitute some things such as the sauna after the gym as this would only allow me to lose more weight, which I couldn’t afford to.

“Also, I tried to stay out of the pool for fear of infections, but other than that, I continued as normal and loved it.

“There were some nights when I felt like a zombie where my eyes dragged down on my face and my legs felt numb and Anne thought I was mad in the head when I get up off the chair to get my kit bag.

“However, as fatigued as I may have been, as soon as I got to the gym or hall, my energy levels were raised.

Tommy Burns with Gar Flemming. Picture: Dan Linehan
Tommy Burns with Gar Flemming. Picture: Dan Linehan

“My sidekick Gar (Fleming) who runs the club with me was a massive help to me during this time to keep the club up and running and through these sessions, I always felt so much better, when I got home.

“Also, the entire Tae Kwon Do federation were hugely supportive during my treatment always offering me support, and a simple phone call daily from Gar and others was a massive boost for me.

“Sport is a way of life for me. I hope to continue it for many years to come. My aspirations are to keep going for as long as I can.

“I love doing what I do, and apart from training myself, I enjoy coaching to try and give back something to the sport that gives me so much joy. I always try to be inventive in my training with regards to techniques.”

Sport also helped him when he was younger working on the building sites.

“I spent years working on sites, finding myself quite loud and angry, always shouting instructions. Through the Tae Kwon Do, I found myself calming down so much.

“It was a place where I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone and when I went back out onto the site, I was a lot calmer.

“I suppose that’s what I got mainly in life out of the sport and that plays a key role in me fighting cancer.

“I feel through sport and training I can focus better on the important things. I am more aware of things around me and that allows me to be positive and beat cancer for the second time.

“Long may that continue.”

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