A BRAVE chef whose cancer fight has inspired the Inverness community has taken his first steps towards reopening his much-loved restaurant and is raising money to help others affected by the disease.
Leigh Mitchell (28), who is now more than half way through his treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, managed to get back in the kitchen and reopen the Riverside Restaurant in Bank Street on Friday and Saturday nights along with his sister and co-owner Jo Mitchell.
They were proud to be able to open briefly and get a taste of normality back in their lives.
"He ran a reduced menu of five starters, five main courses and five desserts and I would like to thank everyone that came down to support him," Miss Mitchell said.
"This is his target to open during intermissions of his treatment and test his ability to cope."
The Riverside Restaurant will be updating its Facebook page with posts about Mr Mitchell’s health to give people an idea of whether he will be fit to open again in two weekends’ time following another chemotherapy session this week.
She added: "These are small steps in returning to some normality and building Leigh’s strength and confidence back.
"He would love to be able to open more but the side effects of his treatment currently do not allow this – in the new year we hope to be back on a more regular basis."
During the start of Mr Mitchell’s treatment in Raigmore Hospital, Miss Mitchell was inspired to try and raise funds for the oncology department which has treated her brother so well.
When he first fell ill Mr Mitchell thought he was just overdoing it, juggling looking after his three-year-old daughter Maria while his wife Anna worked and spending six days a week in the restaurant working as a chef.
It was only following a trip to A&E that the family were given the devastating news that the chef had cancer.
Following the news, Miss Mitchell decided to launch a fundraising page online and host a coffee morning for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Now the pair have raised more than £2000 and will be keeping their crowdfunding page open until Saturday.
They hope to be able to collect all of the funds together to present to the oncology department and the Macmillan Suite at Raigmore Hospital during Mr Mitchell’s fifth round of chemotherapy treatment.
Not content with their fundraising efforts so far, they have also launched a new "tea for treatment" drive.
Using his own experience of how long and gruelling chemotherapy can be for patients, Mr Mitchell and his family want to help provide refreshments for people undergoing treatment.
They worry that the department’s money is being wasted or that nurses are having to pay for tea and coffee themselves rather than allowing people to go without.
Miss Mitchell said the nurses had a collection pot in the ward for donations.
"Chemotherapy is not sometimes quick by injection or by pill – sometimes it can administered over time which can be as much as five hours or a gruelling 24 hours," she said.
"To provide basics of tea and coffee can just make someone’s treatment time a little more tolerable."
Between now and Christmas the family will be looking for donations of tea bags, coffee, biscuits, mugs or cups and anything to make a cup of tea or coffee more enjoyable. They will also be accepting bottles of diluting juice and anything sealed and with a long expiry date.
"We hope this will be extended to Maggie’s Highland who also do wonderful drop-in sessions and support for cancer patients and their families," Miss Mitchell said.
"We are just truly overwhelmed by everyone’s support. We sincerely appreciate everyone’s patience while we try to get ourselves up and running again."