Soldier's dream comes true

WATTISHAM soldier MICK Fraser is a man determined to fight, and his battle has been on the homefront too. REBECCA LEFORT brings a story of courage and hears how he is finally achieving his dream.

WATTISHAM soldier MICK Fraser is a man determined to fight, and his battle has been on the homefront too. REBECCA LEFORT brings a story of courage and hears how he is finally achieving his dream.

BRAVE Suffolk solider Mick Fraser has today won his most important victory yet - his battle against cancer and his fight to go to Iraq.

Every person who signs up to the Army knows they may be called upon to serve their country overseas, and that moment came for Mick in 2003. The father-of-two was preparing to fly out to the Middle East for what should have been the defining moment of his Army career - only to be told that he had cancer.

So as his colleagues at 3 Regiment Army Air Corps, based at Wattisham, made their final plans to join around 50,000 British military personnel preparing to go to Iraq, Mick had to remain at home in Hadleigh.

After treatment at Ipswich Hospital he is now fully recovered from Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and his army career is back on track. He has finally realised a lifetime ambition to undertake an operational tour of Iraq with the Army as a WO2 regimental sergeant major at the Joint Helicopter Force.

Mick, 40, said: “I ran a section of people who maintained the Lynx and Gazelle aircraft which were being readied to deploy to Iraq. When Iraq came along we were up with the game, we had everything ready.

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“It's like the pinnacle of your career; you spend 17 years training in the Army and this was where everything would come together and you were going to do the job for real.

“Suddenly I became ill. I had started losing my fitness and realised there was something wrong. I'd been going to the doctors beforehand because I think I was probably showing symptoms six to 12 months before I was diagnosed. It was in December 2002 that things started really getting bad for me.

“The diagnosis at that point was pneumonia, which was obviously way off, and I was put on a course of antibiotics and sent home sick. But they didn't seem to be doing anything.

“I went to Ipswich Hospital and was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. At first the sheer disappointment of not going to Iraq with my troops, masked the realisation that I was seriously ill.”

Mick's tumour was in an advanced stage, meaning he had to undergo invasive chemotherapy throughout 2003.

Meanwhile his wife Tracy and daughters Rachel, 16, and Kirstin, 14, were also trying to digest the devastating news.

Mick said: “Tracy was hugely upset, it was quite a shock to her. The kids thought it was great that I wasn't actually going away, that Daddy was going to be around and not going to Iraq, which was really quite sweet. Some of my close friends popped in to see me too. They were working long hours and really busy so it was good to see them.”

But not everything went smoothly for Mick, and he received some devastating news after the treatment had started.

He said: “The one low point was my initial prognosis. It saw me get a first course of chemotherapy, which was supposed to have cured the problem. That didn't work so I went on to a stronger course throughout the summer of 2003, which was quite uncomfortable.

“The final course of treatment was a high-dose chemotherapy followed by a stem-cell bone marrow transplant.”

He added: “The treatment I received from the hospital was outstanding. I wrote them a letter of thanks, and they replied with a letter of thanks, thanking me for my letter of thanks!”

Mick is not only grateful to the hospital, but also to the Army which supported him throughout his ordeal, and gave him the opportunity to fulfil his ambition of going to Iraq last month .

Speaking from Iraq he added: “I was very keen to come back to the whole soldiering aspect, and especially to go on an operational deployment.

“But the only opportunity to fulfil that meant I had to move over to this regimental role and come out here in an administrative role which is away from engineering but it makes a refreshing change.

“The fact that the government has said that we won't leave until the Iraqis are able to provide their own security is something we have to live up to. When the Iraqis get to that stage, then we can take a step back, and oversee how they cope and then finally withdraw, and I think it really must be supported for everybody's sake.”

But although Mick is ecstatic to finally be in Iraq, he is already pining over a few home comforts.

He said: “I'm missing my wife and kids, and also a nice glass of red wine.

“We have a two week camping trip to the Loire Valley planned in the summer, and I think Tracy might have a surprise planned for my return in Whitsun week which should be good.”

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Have you overcome an illness to fulfil you ambition? Contact The Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788 or e-mail starnews@eveningstar.co.uk>

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This cancer starts in the lymphoid tissue

There are two main types of lymphoma; Hodgkin lymphoma which used to be called Hodgkin's disease, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. There are more than 20 different types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, each with its own characteristics and behaviour.

Most lymphomas are non-Hodgkin lymphoma - about four in five of all lymphomas diagnosed.

More than 9,400 people in the UK are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma each year.

Source: Cancerbackup

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