When Thomas Cremona was four years old his mother noticed that he was bruising easily and tests revealed he had leukaemia, leading to months of treatment.

Now, aged 22, the young man is free from the illness that shook his childhood and will be rowing 5,000 kilometres across the Atlantic to prove there is life beyond cancer.

“I don’t have many memories of those days when I was sick. But, as I grew older, I started appreciating life more and decided that I want to do something to show there is life beyond cancer and you can reach for your goals,” Mr Cremona said enthusiastically.

The young athlete will form part of a group of six rowers, from various countries, who aim to break the mid-Atlantic rowing speed record which currently stands at 33 days, seven hours and 30 minutes.

The team will row the Sara G, an 11.1 metre-long boat, from Mor­occo to Barbados next January.

“If we manage in 33 days, seven hours and 29 minutes it will be great,” he smiled adding he hopes to be the first Maltese person to row across the Atlantic.

Mr Cremona has also embarked on his personal Row for Cancer campaign and will be rowing to raise money for Puttinu Cares Children’s Cancer Foundation that helps children get through the experience he went through as a child.

When he was four he was diagnosed with leukaemia and spent about four weeks in hospital followed by nine months of chemotherapy.

He remembers being at St Luke’s Hospital for a long time and nurses and doctors were “all very nice” – which is why he values the important role of Puttinu Cares.

“I remember my sister coming to see me, all covered in a large gown, so no bacteria came in,” he recalled with a giggle.

Now Mr Cremona is free of cancer but the experience left him with a strong respect for life.

“Now, when I look at life I’m more appreciative of the time I have. I hate waiting and want to achieve my goals as soon as possible and don’t want to take any chances,” he said. This passion for life led him to like athletics and sports and, when he was 18, he took up mountain-biking and took park in the Lifecycle challenge.

“It was an amazing experience. A real eye opener about what the body can do and, more importantly, what the mind can do,” he said adding he has since taken part in several marathons including the swim between Malta and Gozo last year.

His experience on the Sara G will be his first rowing challenge for which he had been training regularly at the gym. This week he will be going to the UK to train with the rest of the team in the hope of breaking the record.

Come January, they will be travelling to the south of Morocco to start rowing. The six members will be divided into two teams that will take turns rowing every two hours. Corporate sponsors will help Mr Cremona cover the costs of the trip.

Mr Cremona will have a blog on timesofmalta.com and more details can be seen on his website www.oceanrowmalta.com.

Anyone who wishes to donate money to Puttinu Cares can do so by sending a text message to 50617380 to give €2.33, 50618939 for €6.99 and 50619225 for €11.65 or can phone 50049543 to give €7.00, 50049545 for €11.00 and 50049540 for €23.00.

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