WHEN Blackpool grandad Roy Simper had a persistent and tickly cough for weeks on end, he went to his GP.
And now the former hotelier would urge anybody else to do the same.
Mr Simper, 64, is now five years on from the devastating diagnosis of lung cancer he was given at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
Surgeons were able to carry out ground-breaking and life-saving surgery, but it could have easily been a different story.
The grandfather-of-four is backing a campaign by the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Network, called Be Clear on Cancer, which aims to raise public awareness of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer.
In Blackpool, there are on average 129 deaths each year from lung cancer and 150 new cases diagnosed. At present, only 24 per cent of lung cancer sufferers in Blackpool are expected to reach the one year survival milestone.
Mr Simper, a foster carer, said: “I had a cough which wouldn’t go away, and I kept going back and getting antibiotics, and eventually was sent for an X-ray. It showed up I had a 5cm tumour in my left bronchial tube in my lung.
“They told me it was inoperable and they couldn’t do anything about it. It didn’t really hit me until we were talking to the Macmillan nurse next door, and that’s when the emotions kicked in.”
The future looked bleak as doctors initially thought there was nothing they could do.
But after a series of meetings and more in-depth tests, surgeon Russell Milner was able to step in and offer a lifeline. It meant drastic surgery and an operation which can only be performed in very rare circumstances, if a patient meets all the right criteria.
Mr Simper had to have his left lung completely removed. It has left him with less lung capacity, he gets out of breath quicker, gets more tired and has to be careful of infections, but five years on, he is very grateful.
Mr Simper had been a heavy smoker when he was younger, but had given up 15 years before his diagnosis, in March 2007.
“I feel very lucky. If it had been 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have been here. I now regularly attend a local support group for people who have or have had lung cancer, we meet the first Wednesday of every month at the Centre for Independent Living on Whitegate Drive.
“My message is – if you have symptoms like a persistent, irritating cough, if you feel short of breath or have chest pains, go to see your GP – it doesn’t cost anything.”
Log on to www.nhs.uk/lungcancer for more information.