Cancer sufferer encouraging Wiganers to unite

Susan and Philip Halliwell. Philip has had cancer for 11 years and is encouraging people to buy Cancer Research UKs unity bands for World Cancer Day
Susan and Philip Halliwell. Philip has had cancer for 11 years and is encouraging people to buy Cancer Research UKs unity bands for World Cancer Day

A popular hairdresser diagnosed with cancer 11 years ago is encouraging Wiganers to unite for World Cancer Day.

Philip Halliwell, 71, who worked at Norman And Philip Hairdressing on Wallgate, found out he had kidney cancer in 2006.

Although I knew there was something wrong with having a large amount of blood in my urine, it was still a massive shock to have the doctor tell me I had cancer

Philip Halliwell

He continues to receive treatment and has chosen to speak out ahead of World Cancer Day, which is on Saturday.

Mr Halliwell and his wife Susan want people to buy a Cancer Research UK unity band or make a donation to show their support.

The bands are made up of two parts, knotted together, to symbolise strength in unity.

The grandfather-of-eight first suspected something was wrong on Boxing Day in 2005 when there was a lot of blood in his urine.

After visiting his GP and having tests at Leigh Infirmary, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in March 2006 and told his best option was to have his kidney and the tumour surgically removed.

Mr Halliwell, who lives in Marylebone, said: “Although I knew there was something wrong with having a large amount of blood in my urine, it was still a massive shock to have the doctor tell me I had cancer. Sue was with me at the time and it was a total blow. We were terrified - it’s an awful thing to hear.”

He recovered well from surgery but was told a year later that the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and lungs.

He was treated at The Christie hospital in Manchester and despite suffering severe side-effects, the treatment successfully shrunk the lung and lymph node tumours. He had surgery to remove them in December 2008.

But more tumours were found in his lymph nodes in April 2010 and the treatment did not work well.

By March 2011, Mr Halliwell was gravely ill as the cancer had spread to his aorta.

He had an eight-hour operation during which the tumour was removed, part of the artery was repaired and grafted, and some lymph nodes were removed.

He recovered well, but in January 2013 more lymph node tumours were found.

He tried various drugs but they did not work, until he began taking Nivolumab, a type of immunotherapy drug, as part of a clinical trial at The Christie in February last year.

His health has improved dramatically and the drug has now been approved for use on the NHS in England and Wales for patients with renal cell carcinoma that has spread.

Mr Halliwell, who has three sons, said: “I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate to have benefitted from the discovery of new treatments for cancer. The work that Cancer Research UK does in looking into new treatments is invaluable for people like me.

“It’s what’s giving me more precious time with my family. Without these new treatments and drugs, I’d have been in a box 10 years ago.

“But I’m not. I’m here, I’m getting to enjoy my retirement with my wife, see my sons and their families grow up and enjoy being a grandfather.

“We have a little place in Portugal and Sue and I go about twice a year. I appreciate every single trip because it could all have been so different.

“I’ll admit, there have been times when I’ve been very down. At the beginning of 2016, before I started taking this new drug, I was very poorly indeed, virtually housebound.

“I found that very difficult indeed because it got to me mentally. I’ve always been an active, sociable person and to be stuck in the house not feeling well enough to get out into the world was very difficult.

“But things have dramatically improved since I started taking Nivolumab. My consultant, Professor Robert Hawkins, and everyone at The Christie hospital have been amazing.

“I’m 11 years down the line and I’m still living with cancer, but that’s just it - I’m living.

“For as long as we’re able to manage my cancer, I look on every single day with my family as a blessing. Sue’s been by my side the whole way and really helped me cope. Thanks to research, and the treatment and support I received, I’m still here. That’s why Sue and I are urging everyone in Wigan to wear a unity band.”

The unity bands come in three colours and are available at various locations in Wigan, including: Norman And Philip Hairdressing, Wallgate; The Works in The Galleries; branches of mydentist; Rowlands Pharmacy in Marsh Green and Ashton; Red Rose Dental Centre, on New Market Street; and Plumbase, in Woodhouse Lane. www.cruk.org.uk/worldcancerday.