Andrew Graham raises £50,000 for Worldwide Cancer Research after dentist discovers life-threatening cancer in his throat
Some people dread a visit to the dentist but for Andrew Graham it turned out to be a life-saving experience. The former cancer patient was rushed into hospital for an emergency operation after a routine dental appointment revealed he had throat cancer. After being given a second chance at life, he now devotes his spare time to Worldwide Cancer Research, raising over £50,000 to help fund pioneering research projects in the UK and across the world.
It was nearly 20 years ago when he visited his family dentist, who spotted something he didn't like the look of in Andrew's throat. After meeting with a consultant, Andrew was kept under observation for two years. It took another dental appointment for doctors to realise the seriousness of his condition.
"After our family dentist had spotted something in my throat the first time, I was referred to a consultant but given the all-clear," says Andrew. "I remember him saying, 'this has as much chance of being cancer as you have of winning the lottery’. For the next three years, I didn't know anything was wrong until I visited the dentist again and he insisted I get a second opinion."
The second opinion turned out to be life-saving one for Andrew with the second consultant rushing him to the operating room the very next weekend. "I was told that if I didn't have the operation immediately, I would have three months to live,” says Andrew. “In hindsight it feels like I did win the lottery and it's because of my dentist that I'm still here."
After a gruelling nine-hour operation where part of his tongue, glands and jaw were removed, Andrew came out the other end cancer-free. "I had 27 members of the surgical team working on me for nine hours," he says. "It was a huge operation and I have been very fortunate. A lot of people I met during the time of my treatment are no longer here today so I know I'm very lucky."
Andrew set his focus on returning home to his wife and children in time for his son's third birthday. With a stomach feeding tube fitted, over 200 staples in his head, neck and arm, tracheotomy closed up, Andrew was well enough to return home after eight days.
"My cancer experienced spurred me on to do something positive and raise money to help develop better treatments for cancer patients now and in the future. My children, Sarah and James, were two and five at the time so I needed to set a good example to them."
"I really wanted to make a difference and to help scientists find new treatments and cures. I'd like to help someone discover something to stop the suffering altogether. When I first started to fundraise, I visited a children's hospice and when I saw those ill children I just knew I wanted to help. The best thing I can do is to help the research and so far I've raised over £50,000 for Worldwide Cancer Research. I intend to keep going for as long as I am healthy."
Andrew's latest fundraising idea is to virtually run the whole circumference of the globe – 24,900 miles. "The globe run is a massive personal challenge for me," he says. "It's a virtual run as actually running around the globe would be a logistical nightmare. I'm still on a variety of medications as a result of the radiotherapy so it just wouldn't be feasible. I also don't think it would be fair on my wife, Penny, for me to swan off around the world for several years! So instead, I'm running the distance by trying to complete a half marathon a day (on average) and each year I will work out where in the world I would have run to based on the miles I've covered and will visit that country for a holiday and to add more to my miles. I started in March and have now run over 1000 miles. The running side is easy but planning can be tough. I own my own business as well as being a director at Hereford Football Club so it's just finding time to squeeze it all in."
For Andrew, his two proudest moments where when his children - now aged 21 and 19 - both ran the London Marathon with him as soon as they were able to. "When Sarah turned 18, one of the first things she did was sign up to run the marathon with me for Worldwide Cancer Research and when James turned 18, he did the same. Crossing the finishing line with them were two of the best moments of my life. My experience has definitely made me stronger and I'm so glad to have been able to set such a good example to my children and pass on my love of fundraising, thanks to Worldwide Cancer Research.
The incredible amount that Andrew has raised for Worldwide Cancer Research will support the world’s best researchers and allow them to discover new, better ways to diagnose, prevent and treat cancer.
Every penny counts. With your support, there will be a day when no life is cut short by cancer. The more research you help us fund, the sooner that day will come. Without you, there would be no answers.
If you would like to make a donation to Worldwide Cancer Research, please click here.