In 2018 Austin Birks FCILT, Co Chairman of CILT UK’s Bus and Coach Forum was diagnosed with bowl cancer and began treatment that has seen him have over 100 doses of chemotherapy.

Austin’s journey is truly inspirational, he has undergone two life-saving surgeries, with the latter lasting 5 and a half hours and required 64 stitches.

Despite being given the all clear on two occasions, unfortunately his cancer returned in October 2021 and since then Austin has been receiving regular chemotherapy at Warwick and Stratford Hospitals.

Austin has not let this stop him from doing what he loves and earned his 6th blackbelt in Shotokan Karate in September 2020 during lockdown.

Inspired by the likes of Bruce Lee and David Carradine, Austin started training in karate in 1974 and said it has been a constant discipline in his life for over 50 years.

During his time training Shotokan Karate he learned the motto, ‘never give up, never give in.’ His Sensei of 31 years used to promote this when explaining to students that Karate was not just about punching, kicking, and blocking, but it was much more than that. It was about trying to seek perfection of character and become a better person through overcoming challenges.

Austin said: “I adopted the motto when I opened my own Karate club in January 2018 and it has been my ethos since I was diagnosed with level 4A bowel cancer, I also promote it on my Bag for Life blog site which tells my story about living with and surviving cancer.”

On his blog you will find a collection of experiences both good and bad as Austin mentioned: “I do not sugar coat the challenging side of being a cancer patient some experiences are truly awful, but at the same time if you positively, mentally, physically and spiritually are strong you can overcome anything in my view.”

Austin explained that ‘never give up, never give in’ is the key message he wants to promote underlining that all he has tried to do is survive and prove that you can still achieve anything in life. 

“If you have the right attitude you can overcome any challenge be it medical or personal, it does not matter, if you allow things to beat you then they will,” said Austin.

In two weeks’ time Austin will complete chemo number 106, describing it as ‘just a number’ as he continues to train every day either at the gym or at home on his Peloton bike and also teaches twice a week at his karate club in Birmingham.  

Not only that but Austin even embarked on a new hobby in standup comedy raising money for cancer when he performed at the Glee club in Birmingham after his girlfriend enrolled him in 2019. 

To prepare him for the gig it required attending 9 lessons with professional standup comedian, James Cook.

Austin said you have to learn to write your own material, then learn stage craft, using the mike and also learn how to use the stage itself. Austin then performed twice in front of 400 people, helping to raise £13,000 for cancer research.

As an Institute we want to continue to support Austin and also encourage all our members to support him as well to help raise awareness and money in the fight against cancer.

Austin said: “The Institute since my diagnosis in September 2018 has been extremely supportive with many kind messages of support from across the nations, region, and forums, in addition Focus has been great promoting the stand -up comedy where many generous donations were given by members and many good friends who I have met over the years.

“Being a member of CILT means a great deal to me, my father was a fellow and served over 50 years, so I have always valued very highly being an active member and it has been an honour to have chaired the Bus and Coach Forum since 2012.

“The Forum has achieved a great deal due to the dedication, energy, and vision of the members who are people that really make things happen.”

To donate to Cancer Research please click here. To visit Austin’s blog please click here.  

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