An inspiring 22-year-old fitness instructor lost his battle with a brain tumor on April 20, just mere months after being reunited with his childhood best friend.
Neil Vines was only 19, an aspiring Olympian loving life and teaching fitness abroad when cancer struck.
The young Brit was working as a children's sport coordinator for TED Leisure in Crete’s Sensatori Resort in 2012 when he first began experiencing head and neck pain. After returning to the UK and undergoing a large battery of tests, Neil was diagnosed with a brain tumor called a Medulloblastoma. The cancer had already spread to his spinal cord.
The next three years were a hard road for Neil, with chemotherapy and several surgeries. He eventually lost his ability to walk and speak and his eyesight also deteriorated.
(Photo Credit: NeilVines.com)
Neil's sister Sarah told MailOnline, "He would never stop fighting. He would never, ever give up. Throughout it all he helped us by being so strong.
"Obviously, his appearance changed a great deal in that two years, seven month period. But what I always found amazing about Neil is that he was never once embarrassed about his cancer," she added. "He never wanted to wear a wig, he was never ashamed about going out in his wheelchair."
Neil was so public about sharing his journey that it caught the eye of Joanna Meadows, Neil's childhood friend with whom he'd lost contact a decade earlier. She contacted him and went to his side, even shaving her head in support of her friend.
During his battles, Neil also wrote a memoir in which he credits Joanna with helping him get through his struggles.
He was given the all-clear in April 2013, and joyfully relearned to walk and cycle. But tragically, just seven months later in November 2013, he was diagnosed with a second tumor in his brain stem.
"That was tough," said Sarah. "He had worked so hard, he had got to a point where he was walking and running again so to get that diagnosis."
(Photo Credit: Caters News Agency)
But despite the oncoming cancer treatments, Neil took on physical challenges for himself with the help of a stepper and a static bike. He raised thousands for Teenage Cancer Trust, the charity that helped support him in his battle.
"He just wanted to give something back. He would say that every mile he passed on the speedometer was another life he was saving," said Sarah.
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But the cancer proved too much for the young man and he began to deteriorate, losing the use of his limbs. On April 20, he passed away, surrounded by the people who love him.
The devastated family are now aiming to keep Neil's good intentions alive, spreading his positive messages and selling his memoir Powerful Beyond Measure.
For more information and to buy the memoir go to NeilVines.com.
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