Harlow man who nearly died of embarrassment supports World Cancer Day

Charity / Fri 4th Feb 2022 am28 06:11am

DAD Stuart Griffiths could have died of embarrassment if he hadn’t finally opened up to a doctor.

Stuart, a member of London Ambulance Service emergency crew, had found a lump on his testicles but left it eight months before he mentioned it.

By the time it was properly investigated, Stuart was told he had cancer which had spread to his lymph nodes and around his liver.

Stuart, who lives in Harlow, had chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumour, followed by surgery and thankfully, he survived.

This week, he will be celebrating World Cancer Day (Feb 4) with the son he thought he would never have, Frankie.

He is asking people in Essex to help give hope to future generations and raise money for life-saving research by wearing a Cancer Research UK Unity Band on Friday, February 4 – which also marks the charity’s 20th anniversary.

Stuart, 34, who is stationed in North London, said: “Like many men, I was too embarrassed to say I had found a lump so although I went to the GP, I would talk about pain in my belly or my back – but the lump remained my secret.

Finally, a specialist at Whipps Cross Hospital gained Stuart’s trust and he told him.

Tests revealed stage 3 cancer and the news was devastating for Stuart, then only 20.

He said: “It was like a whirlwind. I started crying and thought ‘Well that’s it – I’m out’. Like many people, I assumed cancer meant death. I was scared. It was probably the worst moment of my life.”

Three days later he started 15 weeks of intensive chemotherapy which was followed by lengthy surgery to remove the testicle and the affected lymph nodes.

“I joined a trial called C-BOP BEP which was a combination of three chemo drugs and part-funded by Cancer Research UK. It was only later I found out you could only enrol for it if you had a poor prognosis.”

Before he started treatment, Stuart stored some sperm. And when they were ready, he and partner Kelly decided to try for a baby through IVF. The first round wasn’t successful but the second time it worked and resulted in Frankie, now two-and-a-half and Stuart’s ‘pride and joy’.

Stuart owes his life, thanks in part, to Cancer Research UK’s work after taking part in the clinical trial. He hopes that sharing his story will inspire others to play a part in the fight against the disease. 

He said: “Without the treatment I had, I probably wouldn’t be here today, and nor would Frankie. 

“And that’s down to research. I’m really grateful for the treatment that saved my life. I’ve been given the greatest gift of all – precious time with the people I love.

“That’s why it would be great if everyone got a Cancer Research UK Unity Band. They’re a simple way to show solidarity with anyone affected by the disease, while raising vital funds. Success stories like mine simply wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of the public.” 

Stuart believes his cancer experience helped shape his life.

“Looking back, I’m happy I went through it because it made me what I am today. I’m happy to talk about it now, which I do to schools and groups. Men are a nightmare about going to the doctor but they 100% should go. Check yourself and if there’s anything untoward, get yourself to the doctor. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about – and it could save your life.”

Medicine also had an effect on Stuart’s career. He worked in customer service for a power tool company until the day his father had a cardiac arrest. Paramedics fought to save him, and although sadly they couldn’t, one woman paramedic’s care and empathy left such an impression on Stuart that he decided to apply to join London Ambulance. He is now well on his way to qualifying as a paramedic.

Unity Bands are available in pink, navy and blue and can be worn in memory of a loved one, to celebrate people who’ve overcome cancer or in support of those going through treatment.

In the East of England, around 37,500 people are diagnosed with cancer every year.* 

Stuart added: “So many lives are touched by cancer and, following the pandemic, it’s as urgent an issue now as it’s ever been. New discoveries and breakthroughs are crucial to help save more lives like mine. I’m backing this really important campaign because I don’t want my son to have to face what I’ve been through.” 

Marked on February 4, World Cancer Day is an international initiative, uniting people across the globe to take action against the disease. 

For Cancer Research UK the awareness day takes on extra significance this year, as it celebrates its 20th birthday. 

While the charity was formed in 2002, its history dates back to the founding of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in 1902. Its work has been at the heart of some of the biggest developments in cancer, from radiotherapy to some of the most used cancer drugs around the world today. 

And now the cutting-edge research it funds has helped lead to more people than ever in the UK surviving their cancer for 10 years or more. 

Michael Jarvis, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Essex, said: “As we mark our anniversary this World Cancer Day, we want to say a heartfelt thank you to Stuart and to other supporters for their incredible commitment to the cause. 

“Thanks to our them, we’ve achieved so much. Every day we see the benefits of research we’ve previously funded being realised, helping people live longer and healthier lives. 

“1 in 2 of us will get cancer in our lifetime**, and so we will never stop striving to create better treatments for tomorrow. That’s why we hope everyone will wear a Unity Band with pride – knowing they are helping to save and improve lives for generations to come. We’ve come so far. And we will go much further. Together we will beat cancer.”

Cancer Research UK spent over £60 million in East Anglia alone last year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research. 

Unity Bands are available in Cancer Research UK shops and online at cruk.org/worldcancerday for a suggested donation of £2.

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