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Chris beats cancer twice in 40 years
BEATING cancer once is tough enough but imagine surviving the disease twice - the first time using experimental medicine.
But that is exactly what Aingers Green resident Chris Pinner has done.
In 1972, and aged just 27, Chris was diagnosed with lymphoma and unbeknown to him given just months to live.
After three rounds of radiotherapy on his neck, he was then signed up as one of the first at Essex County Hospital - then Colchester Hospital - to be given the new treatment of chemotherapy.
“They thought I had TB to start with, but then my neck glands came up,” said Chris.
“In those days they never told you what was wrong with you. I didn’t realise except I was very ill.
“Radiotherapy was going too slowly so they then decided to try chemotherapy which was in its early stages in Colchester, and I was told afterwards I was one of the first batches in Colchester.
“It was really trial and error and each time I went in they were uhmming and ahhing as to whether to give it to me. But after the first lot I was 50 per cent better the next morning, it was one of those miracle things.”
In total Chris, a production control manager at the Hermes Abrasives factory in Severalls, had 15 rounds of chemo but was kept in the dark as to what he had and his prognosis, despite having a six-month-old son.
He later found out someone he knew from school, who had treatment at the same time, did not recover from his cancer.
“They told my wife, Jackie, they thought I only had a few months to live. It wasn’t until years afterward I realised exactly what I had wrong with me - it is so different to today,” said Chris.
“People never said, even those getting treatment at the same time. You knew you were ill and hopefully you would get over it, but it was never ‘I had cancer.’
“I was so ill I just went along with it, but I kept going to work. I would ask for my appointment to be on a Friday so I had the weekend to recover and was back in work on the Monday.
“When you’re younger it’s not so bad but I would not want to do that now.”
Almost 40 years later Chris was routinely invited to a bowel cancer test, a disease he was diagnosed with shortly afterwards - fortunately in its very early stages.
Two-and-a-half years ago and one major operation later he has been declared clear of the cancer and is now on a five-year programme to ensure he stays clear.
“It was completely different to last time. But it all fitted in so well - I know people tend to moan about the NHS but it was perfect.
“I was bombarded with every bit of information and leaflets on it all. I think perhaps some information is good, but my wife said I was not reading all the leaflets otherwise I might not get it done.
“Everything in life has a potential danger and perhaps you are told too much now. You could get knocked down on the street tomorrow and killed.
“When it happened the second time they were so positive, they had caught it early and I really didn’t think it was going to be a big problem. It was a big operation but you have to just carry on and take one day at a time.”
Now 69 and retired, Chris is a keen gardener spending time in his allotment and with his two grandchildren.
He said: “Recently we went for a walk around Alresford Creek with my two grandchildren, and the two-year-old sat next to me and although he can’t talk properly yet I was describing all the boats.
“Because I partly missed my son’s early years going in and out of hospital and trying to work I can appreciate the grandchildren more now.”
Chris will be one of the guests of honour at another Colchester first - this time the first Relay for Life in aid of Cancer Research UK.
The event sees teams walk or run around the Colchester Garrison athletics track continuously for 24-hours in a Le Mans-style foot race, all raising money for the charity.
Beginning at 11am on September 7 the first lap will be walked by cancer survivors in celebration at beating the disease.
Chris said: “It is an excellent idea, and it is important so many survivors take part because people can then see you can survive cancer.
“I have seen the progress which has been made in treatment and some cancers now, such as testicular cancer, have a 95 per cent cure rate if they are caught early.
“But there are still some which defeat them and I think it is important we continue to research and raise money for that research. More is still needed.
“I am looking forward to the Relay to Life event.”
- To sign up for a Relay for Life event visit the Cancer Research UK website or, for more information on the Colchester event, call organising chairman John Dyer on 07921 716641.
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