Tennis star serves up tournament winnings to thank staff who saved his life as a boy

12 Jan 2018

Ryan Peniston is making a name for himself in the tennis world and has donated his first professional tournament winnings to Barts Charity to help patients with cancer after he was treated at St Bartholomew’s Hospital as a toddler.

Life-saving treatment at St Bartholomew’s

Ryan, from Southend, was just three years old when he was rushed to hospital with a tumour the size of a football in his stomach.

At St Bartholomew’s, doctors discovered that he had Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer made up of cells that normally develop into skeletal muscle.

Ryan didn’t respond to traditional chemotherapy so his Consultant, Dr Judith Kingston, who sadly passed away recently, suggested a trial treatment. Ryan says: “She had a major role in beating the cancer.”

Ryan’s Dad, Paul (pictured with Ryan, right) adds: “A much stronger chemotherapy had to be used - he was the first patient to try it and we had to sign our permission. It started working straight away but the side effects took him to the brink of survival.”

With the tumour shrunk to an operable size, Ryan was able to have surgery and has been cancer-free for 18 years, although he has a 9-inch scar above his stomach and an annual check-up as reminders.

The illness had a lasting effect on the family, says Paul: “Seeing what we saw changed our lives completely. We were thrown into a world that changed us forever, a world that had some positive days and then some of the saddest you could ever imagine with many of the children not making it. Ryan was one of the lucky ones.”

A tennis star in the making

Ryan was still a toddler when his father noticed his talent for tennis. Paul says: “An irate neighbour was knocking on my door complaining about apples being thrown into his garden – it turned out that Ryan was using an old tennis racket to hit them off our tree and over the fence. I realised from that moment that he was a natural.”

After being coached in his early years by Paul, Ryan’s talent was developed further at a specialist tennis school in France, and he’s currently on a tennis scholarship at the University of Memphis in the USA. The youngster performed well in many junior championships, going on to win the boy’s singles title at the Nike National Juniors Championship in 2014.

Ryan always wanted to donate his first professional tournament winnings to the hospital that saved him – and recently visited St Bartholomew’s with his dad to present us with a cheque for £346 following a doubles win in Doha, which will be donated to cancer services.

Currently in the top 1,000 players, Ryan hopes to continue his success: “It’s my dream to play Wimbledon in the next few years. I hope to be handing over a bigger cheque soon!”

Thank you so much to Ryan and his family for sharing their story and for the kind donation. We’ll be supporting you every step of the way in your tennis career!

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