Cancer victim’s call for action on asbestos

THE family of a Huntingdonshire cancer sufferer who has been told his condition is inoperable is campaigning to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos.

When David Phillips was diagnosed with mesothelioma four years ago, he had no idea how he contracted the fatal lung disease.

A travel agent for 40 years, the 64-year-old had never knowingly worked with the deadly building material, asbestos, except once while in the London office of his former company in the late 70s. He recalls cleaning out a storage cupboard and emerging covered in dust.

The condition lay dormant until a few years after taking early retirement when Mr Phillips suffered a panic attack and was unable to breath.

“We went out for a meal with some friends, I had a panic attack. They bundled me into a car and took me to Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

“One of the first questions I was asked was ‘Had I ever worked with asbestos?”

Initially, he was diagnosed with pleuresy, but when six weeks later he fell ill again, doctors conducted further tests and discovered fluid in his lungs.

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Now, after undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy and an operation to halt the progress of the cancer, Mr Phillips, who lives in Belle Isle Crescent, Brampton, has been told nothing more can be done.

“There is no cure for the disease at all. They tried to remove as much of the tumour as possible and for three years it worked.

“About a year ago, I knew something was not right. The doctor told me it had returned but now it has spread from the left to the right lung.

“I can’t walk long distances. I can’t do gardening – what normally took me a day to do, now takes me a week and a half. It is little things like mowing the lawn, I can’t do now.

“But I have got away with four years. Initially they gave me 12 to 15 months, so I am pretty happy with what I have got.”

The grandfather is determined to raise awareness of mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos.

Last year he jumped 1,400 feet from a plane to raise money for Mesothelioma UK and this year daughter, Laura, completed the Run to the Beat half marathon in London for the same charity.

Mr Phillips said: “It is one of those things that has been kicked under the carpet. It affects people from all walks of life.

“At the moment, it is affecting a lot of teaching staff that were in schools. The thing I am a bit concerned about children being affected.

“I want to see more action. There is a lot of money that goes into breast cancer care, but mesothelioma gets hardly any funding whatsoever.”

Laura, 31, has already raised more than �1,200 for Mesothelioma UK, and is considering doing a 37 mile London bridges cycle challenge next year.

She said: “There is not that much money going into research. People do not know enough about it. It is in schools and buildings.”