A man who has already battled cancer once is ready for a new fight, as he is overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers to help pay for life saving proton beam therapy.
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Graham Vickers, of Penwortham, thought his health fears were over after his first tumour - located in his voice box - was successfully treated through intense chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
But four years later, the cancer had returned - this time in his oesophagus.
Unfortunately, surgeons cannot cut the tumour out for fear of damaging his windpipe and because he has already had radiation therapy, doctors ruled this out as a solution.
The 60-year-old’s only option now is proton beam therapy in Germany. He needs up to £35,000 for the cancer treatment in Germany - and within weeks, £4,410 has already been donated.
Graham, who is a member of Wesham Road Runners, says: “Once I got through my first cancer battle I thought that was it, job done. Everything was hunky dory and I felt so lucky.
“When it came back the second time, I thought to myself, ‘I have been down this road so I can do it again.’ But I was not thinking about how much more difficult it was this time with not having the backup options of radiotherapy and surgery.
“After realising it was not going to be like last time, it started getting quite difficult and the doubts were creeping in.
“I had a couple of really bad days where I was not sure about anything.
“But my good friend, Chris Whitlock looked into setting up a Crowdfunding page to fund proton beam therapy. The money soon came in and I got around £3,000 in just under three weeks before Christmas. I couldn’t believe it. I realised I couldn’t throw the towel in.
“It’s a different fight but still a fight. I have to crack on and get on with it.”
The father-of-six was first diagnosed with cancer four years ago.
He says: “I was suffering from a really bad sore throat for a month and I had lost my voice.
“I had various tests and everything came back clear. I took part in a run with Wesham Road Runners and later that day we had a dinner event. I was doing a presentation and I lost my voice completely.
“The day after my wife Louise and I flew out to Tunisia and my voice went completely as I was at the airport. The holiday was fine but when I returned I went to the doctor. I had an ECG and a CT scan. After five different tests I had a biopsy, which revealed a tumour in my voice box.
“I was given the option of having surgery to cut it out or chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy.
“I opted for radiotherapy and that was successful. Two-and-a-half years down the line I was given the all-clear. I had checkups every three months, then it reduced to six months and then annually.”
Graham, who has 16 grandchildren, then focused on rebuilding his fitness.
He adds: “I got a personal trainer and shortly after that I started to get chest pains. I put it down to being muscular because I was doing so much in the gym but it was not going away. I went to the doctors and had more tests done and it all came back clear.
“I then went for a CT scan which revealed something that led to me going for another biopsy. That’s when doctors found a tumour in my oesophagus.
“Everything came flooding back to me as I was starting it all over again. This time there were more complications because the two options I had before, I no longer had.
“I couldn’t have the radiotherapy because I had that two years ago. The radiation remains in your system for years. You can’t put radiation on top of radiation because it breaks up the internal organs. Surgery was out of the question because it was right next to my windpipe. Damaging that would be catastrophic.”
Graham, who has recently retired from housing association Contour Homes, is due for his fifth chemotherapy session and hopes this will shrink the tumour as the smaller it is, the less proton beam therapy is needed.
He says: “I can have up to 12 sessions of chemotherapy and as long as it is shrinking, I will carry on. This won’t cure it, so after that it would mean palliative care.
“The chemotherapy lasts for four days every three weeks.
“But the more the chemotherapy can shrink the tumour, the less proton beam therapy I will be needing.
“If I meet the NHS criteria the therapy could be partially funded but I am not sure if I fit the bill. The therapy will cost between £25,000 to £36,000.”
A host of Graham’s friends have organised events to help boost funds.
His daughter-in-law Sarah Wilkinson is holding a family fun day at the Wilbraham Labour Club, in Geoffrey Street, Preston, on Sunday February 4, from 1pm until 5pm.
There will be a singer, stalls, tombolas, children’s entertainment, raffles, eyebrow waxing and Splat Your Dad.
Entry is free, but a donation is welcome.
George Kennedy is organising a quiz night to be held at Wesham Cricket Club on Saturday February 10, which promises to be theatrical.
The 60-year-old from Poulton is also being sponsored to lose weight.
Wesham Road Runners has also organised a for a Star Wars themed charity run - Rays for Life, on May 5 at Moor Park, Preston, 10am start.
Heather Buckel and Stephanie Blakeley, who know Graham through Wesham Road Runners, are also busy raising funds for him.
Graham is also no stranger to fund-raising for others, as he raised £3,500 for Rosemere Cancer Foundation when he ran the London Marathon in April 2015 - just two months after he was given the all clear from his first bout of cancer.
He adds: “I felt a bit uncomfortable people raising money for me at first.
“But my aim is once I have used the funds I need, we will carry this Crowdfunding on and make these annual events so other people can benefit from it.”
To make a donation visit http://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/grahamvickersprotonbeamtherapyappeal?utm_id=106