Athlete's family back cancer campaign

WHEN former international athlete Roy Beckett was diagnosed with lung cancer, the shockwaves which struck his family could not have been stronger.A fit man who kept up his running into his senior years and also enjoyed ballroom dancing, he had gone to Ipswich Hospital to receive the results of a chest x-ray because a cough had troubled him for a couple of weeks.

WHEN former international athlete Roy Beckett was diagnosed with lung cancer, the shockwaves which struck his family could not have been stronger.

A fit man who kept up his running into his senior years and also enjoyed ballroom dancing, he had gone to Ipswich Hospital to receive the results of a chest x-ray because a cough had troubled him for a couple of weeks.

He went alone – his family having been given no hint of the seriousness of the results awaiting him – to be given the devastating news.

For his wife Pam and daughters Caroline and Alison it was not the first time the family was to feel it had been kept in the dark, and they say they were given little indication of what lay ahead in the months that Roy would fight the disease.


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Now they are hoping that the Evening Star's Raise the Roof campaign for an education and information centre at Ipswich Hospital will provide a facility to overcome similar problems and help families struck by cancer.

Roy, of Roman Way, Old Felixstowe, battled against the disease for 11 months until his death – determined to reach and celebrate his golden wedding with Pam in August, which he did just a few days before his death.

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"It was such an enormous shock when he was told he had lung cancer – we just could not believe it," said Pam.

"He was always such a fit man. He had only ever been a social smoker, never smoking very much at all, and had always run and prided himself on being fit.

"He wasn't really ill and had just had a cough for a couple of weeks – we thought the x-ray would show a chest infection and so he was happy to go on his own. No-one rang from the hospital to ask us to make sure he was accompanied.

"I don't know how he managed to drive himself home. He just collapsed in tears when he came in."

In his younger days, Roy was an international runner, competing against the likes of the four-minute miler Roger Bannister and Chris Chattaway in the 1950s.

A member of Hythe Athletic Club, he ran the three-mile event and was AAA and British champion and was featured on the Pathe News.

He had a triple heart bypass in 1979 and soon afterwards did a charity run from Bury St Edmunds to Ipswich to raise money for Papworth. Later he had a knee replacement but still kept active and enjoyed dancing.

Pam said that after the diagnosis the family received little information about what the disease would bring – the pattern of treatment and how her husband's health would fare.

Roy's daughter Caroline said: "We knew nothing about cancer at all and we had so many questions and just needed information. But people are so busy, understandably, and no-one could give us the time we needed.

"When you have never been involved in anything like that before it is very difficult. My sister and I had to make separate appointments with the staff to find anything out. We needed to know what to expect.

"We would really love to see the education centre up and running because we are sure it would be so beneficial to people in that situation and take pressure off the hospital staff."

However, the family stressed Roy – who left four grandchildren, Emily, Katy, Ben and Olivia, and a great-grand child Charlie – received the best treatment they could have wished for, cared for expertly by the hospital, the Macmillan Nurses and the hospice at home team, allowing him to die with dignity.

Hospital spokeswoman Jan Rowsell said: "A true sense of partnership comes by listening to the people who need and use the services and their families and friends and that is at the heart of what we are trying to do now in the NHS.

"We are absolutely thrilled that that this new centre is going ahead because it is really addressing a great need for better and easier access to information."

n The Raise the Roof appeal is aiming to raise the final £100,000 for the £300,000 education and information centre project to put the roof on.

Donations can be made by sending cheques – payable to Raise the Roof – to Geraldine Thompson, Editor's Secretary, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN.

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