By Hollie Bone
A dad was horrified after his watery eye turned out to be an ‘ALIEN’ tumour which destroyed half his face.
Graeme Heward, 58, was diagnosed with cancer in the nasal lining in summer 2011 after months of issues with his eye and pressure in his sinuses he believed to be dry eyes or a blocked tear duct.
Since then the dad-of-two, who dubbed his cancer ‘The Alien’, has undergone almost 30 operations which took away his right eye and left him unable to breathe.
Today, Graeme is still receiving palliative care and wears a prosthetic face-piece to help him breathe, but despite his impairments, the determined dad is cycling 1,090 miles from Swansea to Inverness to raise £50,000 for Maggie’s charitable cancer support centres.
Graeme, from Lymm, Cheshire, said: “When doctors told me that they needed to remove part of my nose to get rid of the cancer, they said there was a one in 20 chance things would get messy and they’d need to go back for more.
“I thought they were pretty good odds at the time but two weeks after I was called in by the consultant who told me they were going have to go back in and take away my eye.
“I was horrified, and after receiving the worst news in my life, I didn’t have anywhere to go, I didn’t want to break down in the waiting room with other people, so I was left to do it in a hospital corridor, I had nowhere to go, and that’s why these Maggie’s centres are so important.”
Initially Graeme thought his watery eye was conjunctivitis and was prompted to go to a doctor in order to seek a treatment before going on holiday with his partner, Lesley Braithwaite, 56.
But he claims doctors diagnosed him with a dry eye condition and gave him various treatments before they realised something more serious was at play.
Today, Graeme, who works as a private physiotherapist, says his unusual appearance does attract a lot of attention, but the inspiring dad laughs it off saying he ‘understands how David Beckham feels’.
Medics can’t give him any more radiotherapy or cut away the tumour any further due to it pushing on a major blood vessel, so he will never be cancer free but said regular chemo currently keeps his illness at bay.
He said: “I do get some reactions. I think it gets up my partner, Lesley’s nose more than it does mine because when someone stares at me, if I look at them, they look away, whereas she can see people staring for much longer before I’ve noticed.
“It doesn’t really bother me though, it just makes me feel like how David Beckham must feel. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.
“When I was diagnosed, Lesley and I had only been together for five years and I said to her I wouldn’t mind if she couldn’t handle it, but she hasn’t wavered once.
“She’s been absolutely amazing, my biggest support, I honestly don’t think I’d be here today without her.”
Today, Graeme has had countless surgeries to go back and remove parts of the tumour in his nasal lining, correct his breathing, and fit his prosthetic, but he says it was two years ago, when his unrelenting cancer left him with only one more treatment option, that he discovered Maggie’s charitable cancer support centres.
He added: “I first discovered them about two years ago, when my treatment options were reduced to palliative chemotherapy.
“I’d had about 25 operations by then but the cancer still kept coming back and was right up against a major vessel in my neck.
“Until then I’d never considered alternative medicines, but I realised I was about to exit this world unless I could make drastic changes to my life – I made 50 or so changes to diet, environmental exposure, stress reduction, and supplementation.
“All these changes coincided with the opening of a Maggie’s centre in Manchester near where I live.
“I just used to go in and take a seat, they’d offer me a cup of tea and I found it a lovely inspiring place to be. I always felt comfortable, they’re a little sanctuary where the staff understand what you’re going through.”
Graeme was inspired to start a fundraiser for Maggie’s in last year at the same time he received his successful facial prosthetic which has helped him to breathe and sleep properly and covered up the hole in his face.
He said: “I realised too few people were aware of Maggie’s facilities and resources, so I thought he’d try to change that, by cycling between all 22 Maggie’s centres, zigzagging across the country from Swansea to Inverness in 17 days.
“It’s been fantastic doing the ride to this point seeing the centres and meeting the staff and feeling the atmosphere in each one, it’s more than matched my expectations.
“Several times I’ve thought I was going to die so to be able to do this has made me feel alive. It’s only when you put yourself outside of your comfort zone that you find out what’s really inside you.
“There’s a quote from the founder Maggie Keswick Jones who set these sites up – she said ‘Above all what matters is not to lose the joy of living in the fear of dying’ which is a concept which I think this ride embodies.”
Donate through the just giving page: www.justgiving.com/maggies-tour