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
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