Colin’s battle with cancer began in August 1994. Ironically, he discovered his lump at the same time as his wife discovered she was pregnant with their second child. An ultrasound scan showed the lump was malignant and he underwent surgery – orchidectomy (removal of the affected testis). Following this surgery, blood tests and CT scans showed the cancer had spread to his abdomen and Colin’s fight for survival began.
The next treatment was four months of chemotherapy, the side effects of which were vomiting and hair loss, but this was quite easily endured as his chances of survival were quoted as 80%. Colin achieved remission at Christmas 1994 but by January 1995 blood tests were again showing positive which meant that some of the cancer cells had survived the standard chemotherapy treatment. Over the next three months the doctors tried to identify these cells with every known test- including tests still in the research process. But the cells could not be traced. On 3rd April 1995, Colin’s second son (Elliott) was born. Elliott was only two weeks old when Colin was told that at last the cancer cells had been found. Unfortunately, they had now taken hold in his body and had formed solid tumours in both lungs and in his pelvis. The chance of survival had dropped to 40%.
If only one life is saved as a result of better self awareness resulting in contacting a doctor earlier with a tumour, then all the hard work has been worthwhile.
After a month of further chemotherapy, a repeat scan showed the tumours had grown showing the chemotherapy was not working. Colin now needed a miracle. Professor Oliver discussed with Colin using a new drug that had not been tried in testicular cancer before, but was showing signs of being successful with other types of cancer. There was no option other than to try it. The chance of survival was now down to 20%. After just one course the tumours shrank, by two courses they were just small specks and as Colin achieved remission from his disease the decision was made to complete the treatment with a bone marrow stem cell transplant.
A bone marrow transplant requires the patient to be exposed to very high doses of chemotherapy to kill off their bone marrow before healthy bone marrow cells are replaced. The treatment requires isolation in hospital for four to eight weeks and totally destroys the body’s immune system, leaving
the patient open to any infection. Prior to the stem cell transplant, Colin had septicaemia twice, the second time requiring treatment in the intensive care unit. He was warned that there was a risk that the treatment could kill him, but when you are thirty three years old and have two small children, you have no option but to grit your teeth and summon up the strength, courage and determination for the final round. The transplant was a success but Colin’s treatment was not quite finished. Just six weeks after the transplant, Colin had to have further surgery to remove all the lymph glands in his abdomen and pelvis to ensure that all the areas that had been diseased were removed and that no cells were to remain that could survive the treatments. Colin was positive throughout all his treatments, he never gave up hope and it was sheer guts and determination that got him through. Colin has utilised his knowledge of the physical and emotional rollercoaster that a man suffers when being diagnosed with and having treatment for cancer and now acts as a counsellor for fellow cancer patients.
It was during his treatment that the financial crisis facing Professor Oliver’s research unit came to light. With the knowledge that without the skill and dedication of Professor Oliver and his staff, and without the previous research carried out by the unit, Colin would not have survived, he felt he had to do something to help save the unit and continue the valuable research.
So, together with Professor Oliver the possibility of starting a charity was discussed. Thus the seed (or should I say bulb!) was planted. The first fund raising event for Orchid was a Pro/Am Golf Day at Ilford Golf Club which together with a grand raffle raised almost £20,000. The enthusiasm that greeted this event greatly encouraged and inspired Colin and Tim. After the success of that venture Orchid was registered as a charity.
Colin has appeared on several television shows – notably “Esther”, “Open House” with Gloria Hunniford and “Good Morning” with Richard and Judy. Articles were featured in most of the national newspapers and magazines as well as local press and radio. 2004 saw Colin win the prestigious Daily Mirror Pride of Britain award, which was featured on ITV and GMTV.
Raising public awareness is Colin’s personal goal. In Colins words “If only one life is saved as a result of better self awareness resulting in contacting a doctor earlier with a tumour, then all the hard work has been worthwhile.”