Wigan grandad given just six to nine months to live after cancer diagnosis is going strong three years later
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Peter Hurst, who lives in Beech Hill, said it was like being hit by “a tonne of bricks” when he received the diagnosis.
But that was in December 2020 – and almost three years later he continues to do well, thanks to the care and treatment he has received.
The 76-year-old is now supporting a fund-raising appeal by The Christie NHS Foundation Trust for research which could help other patients with cancer in future.
Cheryl Hurst, Peter’s wife of 50 years, said: “In 2020, we had Covid at the beginning of November and we were fine, but he started not feeling well.
"He had a blood test at the doctors’ and they found his sodium levels were very low and sent him to A&E. While he was there, the doctors noticed his chest was rattling a bit, so he had an X-ray and they found shadows on his lung. We thought they were left over from Covid, because it was literally a few weeks afterwards.
"They made an appointment with the oncologist and he went to the clinic and Dr Sundar said it was cancer. It was small cell lung cancer, which is a very aggressive form. He said that he had six to nine months.
"It was terrible. Peter said it was like being hit by a tonne of bricks really to be told that. They said they would treat him and throw at him what they could, but the cancer was incurable.”
Peter, a retired company director, went to The Christie in Manchester and it was there that doctors revealed the cancer had spread to his brain.
They decided to give chemotherapy and do radiotherapy on his brain, which had positive results and did not cause many side-effects for him.
Cheryl said: “Luckily the cancer was not spreading. The brain cancer went – they managed to get rid of that – and the lung cancer was there but it was stable.
"But then they found some on his adrenal gland. He ended up being put on a trial.”
It was a phase two trial – which meant the drug had only been tested on animals or a few people before – and he was one of only seven people in the UK taking part in this phase.
However, Peter’s mobility had previously been affected by two strokes and his issues worsened during the trial, so it was decided that he should no longer take part.
He had radiotherapy on his adrenal gland and regular scans have been carried out since to check the cancer is not progressing.
Despite the initial prognosis, Peter is still going strong three years later. He is able to get on with his life and continues to enjoy fishing.
Cheryl said: “At the moment Peter is very well. He had a bit of a cough and we went to our GP to get it checked out, but he said he wouldn’t have known there was anything wrong with him if he hadn’t seen it in the notes.
"He is doing really well. I think it’s partly his attitude, because he’s got a very laidback, positive attitude, and also the treatments he has had and the care he has had.
"He is on palliative care and Macmillan have been. They are absolutely brilliant.”
Cheryl praised the “fantastic” NHS for the care her husband had received over the past three years.
The couple, who have two daughters and three grandchildren, have since encouraged their friends and family to donate to The Christie so it can continue to support patients with cancer.
It was while Peter was on the trial that medical staff told him about fund-raising that was taking place at The Christie for research into why some cancers become drug-resistant and what can be done about that. It is hoped that if answers can be found, they could make a real difference in the fight against the disease.
Cheryl said: “When we started going to The Christie, they were starting to build an extension and it was at floor level. Three years later, the building’s up and it’s in the last stages of being finished.
"Normally the researchers would be working at university and the medics at hospital, but the purpose of this building is that the medics and the researchers can work together.
“The reason they were fund-raising was to fund a PhD research student.”
Peter was asked to appear in a video speaking about his experiences as a cancer patient to support the hospital’s fund-raising effort.
Filming took place last year, with both Peter and Cheryl in the video, as well as their pet dog, and the video was shared to the university’s alumni.
The fund-raising appeal proved to be a success and The Christie has now reached its £150,000 target and will be able to fund a PhD student to look into drug resistance.
Cheryl and Peter have been invited to an event at Withington Cancer Research Centre next month, alongside oncology professionals and eminent doctors and professors, to find out how the money will be used.
Cheryl said: “There’s a lot of work going on. Christie’s is absolutely amazing.”
To find out more about The Christie’s work or to make a donation, go to www.christie.nhs.uk.