Firefighters have rallied together in support of a popular colleague dying from a rare form of cancer.
Richard Metcalfe, who was stationed at Fleetwood Fire Station for 21 years before moving to South Shore, has sarcoma, which affects around just one in every 100 cancer patients.
The 47-year-old veteran’s work pals have now raised thousands of pounds for charity in his honour.
Maxine, who lives with her husband of 22 years and their children Will, 21, and Rosie, 19, in Little Acre, Thornton, said: “We were in shock – we were just numb.”
Richard was diagnosed in January after going to A&E at Blackpool Victoria Hospital before Christmas, after noticing a lump in his stomach.
Tests revealed three separate growths, and doctors broke the news he had sarcoma, which develops in the muscle, bone, nerves, cartilage, tendons, blood vessels, and tissues.
Richard underwent surgery at Aintree Hospital on Liverpool on March 11, where he had the tumours – which had grown into one big one weighing 19 lbs – removed.
He also had his left kidney, spleen, a descended colon, and half his pancreas taken out. After months of hell, Richard and his family finally began to see light at the end of the tunnel in the summer after later tests showed no signs of cancer.
Maxine, who had left work to care for her husband, added: “Things started to get back to normality. I went back to work and Richard started going to the gym, doing very gentle exercises. He was talking about going back to work on light duties.”
But in August, Richard started getting pain in his back and was given heartbreaking news – he had another tumour growing on his spine, so vicious it fractured it.
“There was nothing they could do,” Maxine added. “It was the worst experience. We were devastated. Every day I see him get worse.”
Within a week, Richard was using a walking stick. Within two he was in a wheelchair. And within a month, he was bed-bound.
Maxine said her husband’s cancer battle has been tough for the whole family. She added: “We have been dealing with it for 11 months and it very quickly becomes part of life. And it’s hard for Richard as well.”
And she paid tribute to his colleagues who raised £4,053 for Trinity Hospice, which is supporting Richard and his family. They arranged a football match between Preston Old Boys and a Fire Service XI at Poolfoot, Fleetwood’s new training ground. A raffle, involving several ex-PNE players, was held after the game.
A coffee morning was also held at South Shore fire station. Station manager Colin Hickson said: “Richard is a gentle giant. He will go out his way to help you, but will let you know if you are pushing the line. He is one of life’s good guys, and a family man who dotes on his wife and kids.”
A Fleetwood Town spokesman said the club was ‘honoured’ to host the game.