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Message of hope for cancer sufferers

PUBLISHED: 16:00 14 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:55 03 March 2010

DETERMINED Howard Westlake from Felixstowe is living proof that there is life after cancer – and his story is a message of hope for all sufferers.

Mr Westlake, 49, was diagnosed with a form of leukaemia in 1988 and has battled hard to fight the disease and beat it.

DETERMINED Howard Westlake from Felixstowe is living proof that there is life after cancer – and his story is a message of hope for all sufferers.

Mr Westlake, 49, was diagnosed with a form of leukaemia in 1988 and has battled hard to fight the disease and beat it.

However, his sheer persistence is possibly what saved his life and now he is encouraging other people to be resilient and determined and not to shy away from their instincts.

"I had been losing weight, which most of us think is a good thing and I was very tired but I put that done to long hours at work" he said.

"I felt a swelling in my abdomen and the alarm bells started ringing.

"I went for an examination and was told I had no lump and was given the all clear. I wasn't happy so I insisted on a second examination and a lump was found."

He added: "Everyone wants to hear they are ok but I knew something wasn't right and I wasn't prepared just to accept it and that's the message I want to get across.

"I knew my body and if I hadn't persevered who knows what would have happened. A few months later and it might have been too late."

Mr Westlake said it's imperative to have the support of your family at a time when you go through all the emotions.

"My wife Jill was a rock and it really helps to talk to someone. You are bombarded with so much information is really helps to have someone with you," he said.

The Clued Up On Cancer campaign, which Mr Westlake is backing, is being promoted across East Anglia from May to September. The main message is cancer prevention such as no smoking, a healthy diet and exercise but also for people to know their bodies and act when changes occur.

Mr Westlake, of Lidgate Court, said: "I know there are always going to be cases where the most fittest and healthiest person gets cancer but I'm convinced these people are in a far better position to beat it because of their lifestyle.

"Each of us knows when something isn't normal in us and early detection could be the difference between life and death."

Mr Westlake was fortunate enough to detect his lump early and says it's important for people who believe they have something wrong to go armed with information.

"Doctors aren't magicians and it's essential they're given as much help them with their diagnosis.

"Symptoms and time spans are critical and the more facts you provide them with the better," he said.

Mr Westlake who was diagnosed with Cronic Myloid Leukaemia, says the treatment he received from Ipswich Hospital and Addenbrooke's Hospital, where he had a bone marrow transplant, was fantastic.

"I was really quite fortunate to get a match so quickly. My sister wasn't compatible but within four to six weeks a donor had been found for me. I owe my life to the Anthony Nolan Trust," he said.

An area Mr Westlake feels needs addressing is the myth that cancer and death go hand in hand.

He said: "Cancer is a horrible word especially when you're told you've got it. But people do get through it and come out the other side and it's ok to talk about and people do live with it.

"I'm living a full and active life and in my mind I am cured.

"The only thing I can't do is play the violin but I couldn't do that before I had cancer."

In September last year, Mr Westlake packed in his job at BT, where he was a senior manager. He now occupies his time by walking his dog Tasha, a red and white border collie, who he says has been a real inspiration during his recovery and is also working with charities to promote cancer awareness.

"My outlook on life has changed radically. I have recognised what's important to me and got the right balance to between work and life.

"I'm not just living for the moment, I expect a long future ahead and am looking forward to it.

"Life is normal, the only difference is I've left work."

N Mr Westlake will be appearing in a half-hour documentary, Cutting the Odds, tomorrow on Anglia at 7.30pm. (Tuesday 14)

N The clued up on cancer roadshow will be visiting Ipswich in July and Felixstowe in August.

www.anthonynolan.org.uk


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