Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

John's Become a DVD Star to Spread Message on Cancer

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

John's Become a DVD Star to Spread Message on Cancer

Article excerpt


A BRAVE grandad has told how the love and support of his wife, Kathleen and four grandchildren helped him battle cancer - and gave him the strength to help other sufferers.

John O'Neill, of South Bank, Middlesbrough, was diagnosed with throat cancer just before Christmas in 2005 and underwent surgery to remove his voice box the following January.

The 60-year-old, who speaks with an artificial voice box, is now recovering from a further tumour in his neck, which was diagnosed in 2007.

But the regular check ups he still endures haven't stopped him getting involved with a new training DVD aimed at encouraging earlier diagnosis and treatment of head and neck cancer, which has been launched by The Look A Head Cancer Campaign.

More than 500 health professionals are set to benefit from the DVD training package, which was launched at one of four special briefing sessions in Darlington.

The training DVD, featuring John talking about his own experience, will be rolled out across the rest of the North-east next year.

John, who lost his father to throat cancer in 2000, frankly admits to "burying his head in the sand" when he first began displaying symptoms. He said: "You tend to think it will go away. I was suffering from hoarseness when speaking and it was sometimes difficult to talk.

"It got progressively worse over a few months, then an occupational health nurse at work suggested I go and see a GP."

John, who works in maintenance reliability at Vertellus in Seal Sands, was then given the devastating news, but was more concerned about the impact on his family.

He said: "I had been through the experience with my father and had an inside knowledge of what could happen.

"I wasn't concerned about myself, I was thinking, 'what will my wife do? What about my grandchildren?'" John's knowledge of his father's condition led him to take the radical option of surgery to remove his voice box over radiotherapy.

"If the radiotherapy had been unsuccessful, the option of surgery may not have been there anymore," he said.

"Once I'd decided to go for the surgery I did think positively. I thought, 'I've got my wife and my grandchildren who I absolutely adore. This isn't going to beat me.'" After the surgery, further investigation of the tissues that were removed showed radiotherapy probably wouldn't have resolved the issue. "I was quite fortunate I made the right decision," said John.

John, a dad to Patrick, 40, and Marie, 39, had to learn to speak again with the support of speech therapists at James Cook University Hospital and Macmillan Cancer Nurses who John described as "magnificent" in also supporting Kathleen through the most stressful of times.

It took six to 10 weeks for the grandad-offour to utter his first word after the first operation. …

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