When they told me I had a tu­mour the size of a rugby ball, I didn’t think I’d live to hold my son

Ormskirk Advertiser - - Front Page - BY EMILIA BONA emilia.bona@trin­i­tymir­ror.com @emil­i­abonaTM

AMAN fought a can­cer­ous tu­mour the size of a rugby ball un­der­go­ing surgery that left him too weak to hold his new­born son.

Rus­sell Bielby, 44, had a rare tu­mour which grew to 10in in his chest and sur­rounded his heart.

The dad-of-one was di­ag­nosed in 2010 while his wife, Sarah, was seven months preg­nant with their baby, Joseph.

The cou­ple met when they were just 11 at Scaris­brick Hall School and mar­ried in 2002.

Rus­sell said: “The first thing I thought was ‘How am I go­ing to look af­ter my fam­ily if I’m not go­ing to be around?

“On pa­per it looked like I had two weeks to live.

“I was just try­ing to be strong for my wife. It was a strange time for us any­way – we had been try­ing for a num­ber of years to have a baby and we got the good news that Sarah was preg­nant.

“You go into a mode of pro­tect­ing other peo­ple – I just thought, I need to look af­ter my fam­ily.

“I had lost my dad to a heart at­tack so I was think­ing about how to break the news to my mum.

“I just thought, I’m go­ing to beat this. It’s a fight or flight thing and you get your­self into the mind­set that if you are not go­ing to beat this then you are go­ing to go down fight­ing.”

Rus­sell, who lives in South­port, un­der­went an eight-hour op­er­a­tion to re­move his tu­mour af­ter four in­ten­sive rounds of chemo­ther­apy.

Just a few days be­fore Christ­mas 2010, he was told by doc­tors that the surgery was a suc­cess.

He said: “That was quite the Christ­mas present.

“I couldn’t even pick Joseph up – that was my tar­get for Christ­mas Day was just to be able to hold him.“

He is now tak­ing on a char­ity box­ing match to help raise money for Can­cer Re­search UK, af­ter his son Joseph’s best friend, Lewis Cross­ley, was di­ag­nosed with leukaemia.

Six-year-old Lewis was di­ag­nosed with one of the most ag­gres­sive forms of leukaemia in 2015 and re­cently un­der­went a stem cell trans­plant.

Joseph met Lewis at pri­mary school and the pair have been best friends ever since.

Rus­sell said: “I can’t even imag­ine what his par­ents are go­ing through.

“I was not a lit­tle boy of six and at the time I was the pa­tient.

“I have so much emo­tion for his mum and dad ,who are sim­i­lar to me and Sarah, but our lit­tle boy is healthy and their lit­tle boy is very poorly.”

De­spite never hav­ing stepped inside the ring be­fore, Rus­sell wanted to take up the chal­lenge for Lewis.

He said: “I never thought I would be able to do some­thing like this in a mil­lion years. I couldn’t even talk dur­ing my re­cov­ery af­ter the surgery be­cause of the dam­age to my vo­cal chords.”

It took al­most 18 months for Rus­sell to re­ceive his can­cer di­ag­no­sis, af­ter go­ing back and forth to the GP and hos­pi­tal for end­less tests and checks.

Nor­mally a fit and healthy man, he was blighted by chest in­fec­tions and ir­reg­u­lar bloat­ing.

He said: “I re­mem­ber break­ing down in front of my GP and say­ing: ‘I don’t know what’s wrong but some­thing’s not right.’

“I knew my body well enough to know some­thing was wrong.

“It felt like they were ex­haust­ing lots of tests and I was just wor­ried.

“The GP couldn’t hear any air get­ting into my left lung so I was re­ferred for x-ray straight­away.

“I got a call two hours later which ob­vi­ously set off alarm bells. They said: ‘We need you to come in – we’ve dis­cov­ered a mass on your left side and we need to do some more in­ves­ti­ga­tions.’ From that point on the care I re­ceived was just un­be­liev­ably good – I can not fault any­thing at all.”

Rus­sell said he felt “very lucky” to have watched ev­ery sec­ond of Joseph’s child­hood.

To do­nate to Rus­sell’s char­ity box­ing match in sup­port of Lewis Cross­ley visit: www.just­giv­ing. com/fundrais­ing/Russ-Bielby

Rus­sell is do­ing a char­ity box­ing match to raise money for Can­cer Re­search UK

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