But when he felt an agonising pain in his left shoulder, the 22-year-old knew something was seriously wrong.
And 15 minutes after his doctor carried out an MRI scan, JJ, from Redcar, was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone and soft tissue cancer.
“It turned my world upside down; it was the worst news ever,” said JJ, a tactical submariner with the Royal Navy. “I knew there was something seriously wrong on the Sunday and I said to the doctor, ‘I think I have cancer in my arm’.”
JJ, who joined the Royal Navy in November 2011, was put straight on the most intensive form of chemotherapy. In a tragic twist of fate, the submariner has had to watch as his mother Debra Ford, 47, also struggle against cancer.
“My mum is battling cancer as well so it is definitely a shock,” he said. “She was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago but has it on her chest bone so she is going to have to have treatment for the rest of her life.
“I do not know how we keep going. I cannot imagine what she is feeling but she just keeps going on normally.”
Last month, the Gazette reported how JJ’s cousin Megan Ayres was getting nine inches cut off her hair for Cancer Research after being inspired by JJ.
JJ, a former pupil of Rye Hills School in Redcar who has been engaged to fiancee Samantha for four years, has undergone four sessions of chemo.
He will have six in total before having an operation to remove bone from his upper arm and replace it with an implant in October.
JJ, who is based at HMS Neptune, in Faslane near Glasgow with the Royal Navy, praised his employers and said they have been looking after him since he was diagnosed in May.
But to keep his mind off his treatment and to keep his fitness levels up, JJ has set himself a goal with the help of Northern charity the Toma Fund, which has just bought him a specially adapted bike.
“I used to do a lot of running and swimming but now I can’t because of the chemo,” said JJ, who studied engineering at Middlesbrough College.
“The Toma Fund has bought me a bike suitable for me to train for the Coast-to-Coast ride I am doing for them.
“I have had to get extra handle bars and adjustments for my arm. I will do it slow and steady while I am having treatment and then I will train hard. I just want my normal life back.
“It keeps my mind off what is going on and gives me something to focus on and train for.”
He added: “It is absolutely brilliant the help I have been given from the Toma Fund, social workers, nurses and my friends and family.”
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