‘I had weeks to live - but two years on I’m still fighting’: Ipswich man on gruelling cancer battle
PUBLISHED: 19:00 11 November 2019
He was told he had just weeks to live - but Ipswich’s Paul Rutter is still defying the odds two years on from being told he had terminal cancer.
Basking in the afterglow of another successful British Athletics international contest, the fit and active sports official thought there was nothing to worry about when he felt a small lump on his neck in 2017.
Yet just as he was about the embark on the holiday of a lifetime to Australia and New Zealand, doctors ordered him to stay at home after he had been referred to Ipswich Hospital for a swab.
A fortnight later, he got the news everyone dreads and which no-one seemed to think possible - that the innocuous bump on his neck was an inoperable tumour.
Having spent his sports career making decisions on who gets gold, silver and bronze based on tiny distances, now a tumour of just a few centimetres meant he had terminal throat cancer with no more than two months to live.
'My wife and daughter just fell to the floor'
"I was going on holiday to Australia and New Zealand when I felt a tiny bump," said Mr Rutter, of Quentin Close, who started as a field official for the Ipswich Harriers in 1999 and has officiated in track and field athletics across the world for the past 20 years.
"I thought it was a tooth abscess as I recently had an infection on the other side."
"The doctor who delivered the news couldn't quite believe what I had as I looked so fit and healthy. It was such a shock.
"I've never smoked, never been ill and I have no family history of cancer, but I was told I had stage-four cancer.
"My wife and my daughter just fell on the floor."
Mr Rutter, who officiated at the 2012 Olympic Games and was named Official of the Year by England Athletics in 2018, was sent to the Royal Marsden Hospital in London and was told his only chance of survival was a clinical trial.
A new drug injected directly into the tumour managed to halt its growth, but the treatment took its toll.
"I became very ill very quickly and lost five stone in five months," added the former builder, whose proudest moment was officiating at the 2014 Invictus Games in front of Princes Charles, William and Harry.
The gruelling recovery took months, his tumour has grown and still requires radiotherapy.
However more than two years after his terminal cancer was found, Mr Rutter is fighting.
'I live each day at a time'
Mr Rutter's experience is driving him to encourage everyone in Suffolk to check out any symptoms that alarm them as soon as possible as part of Cancer Research UK's Right Now campaign.
"Whatever happens to me will be what it is, but what I don't want is people to go through what I have been through," he said.
"Two years ago, I was told I had just weeks to live, but research has given me more precious time with my loved ones and I'm so grateful for that.
"My doctor thinks if they can target the tumour successfully with radiotherapy there's hope. They said that one day there would be a cure for the type of cancer I have.
"It's not good news that my tumour has grown but I live each day at a time.
"Psychologically I have good times and bad times, but no one sees the bad times.
"Now, I want to do everything I can to help raise money and awareness.
"That's why I'm backing this vitally important campaign and I hope people in Ipswich will donate or support in any way they can."
'Every action makes a difference'
Patrick Keely, Cancer Research UK spokesman in Suffolk, said: "We are so grateful to Paul for showing both the realities of cancer and the positive impact research and improved treatments can have on people's lives.
"Every hour, around four people are diagnosed with cancer in the East of England.
"That's why we're working every day to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease.
"We hope our campaign will inspire people to take action, right now, and play their part in beating cancer.
"There are so many ways to show your support here in Ipswich, from joining a Race for Life event, to volunteering in our shops or making a donation."