Skin cancer

By Shirley Bartynek

George Cairns was diagnosed with a facial angiosarcoma which spread to his liver

A Lanarkshire man who has battled facial cancer is urging fellow sufferers not to fear cancer and put their faith in science and the NHS.

George Cairns, was diagnosed with a facial angiosarcoma – an aggressive form of cancer – which then spread to his liver, but despite this he still rides a motorbike and enjoys a full life surrounded by his loving family.

The 72-year-old, from Larkhall, told Lanarkshire Live: “I always say to people, don’t fear cancer, science has moved on so much and care is tailored to the individual, to give the best outcomes.

“I am living proof of that.”

After having initial surgery at Monklands Hospital in February 2019, George’s care switched to the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre where he remains under the care of Dr Ioanna Nixon.

George explained: “I remember our first trip to the Beatson well. There were four of us – me, my wife my daughter and daughter-in-law.

“Nobody spoke in the car over there. When we went in to meet Dr Nixon, she pulled her chair over and the way she spoke to me made me feel like the only person in the world with cancer.

“It wasn’t just a case of this is what your treatment will involve, there was real compassion. The journey home was very different. She had relaxed all of us and given us hope.”

George went on to have 27 sessions of chemotherapy and 10 sessions of radiotherapy, in which he wore a specially fitted mask, before undergoing further surgery at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital after a routine scan detected the cancer had spread to his liver.

The news meant George had to undergo more chemotherapy, which successfully shrunk his tumour from 4cm to 2cm.

This was followed by a procedure called Radiofrequency ablation that uses electrical energy and heat to destroy cancer calls. The radiologist uses imaging tests to guide a thin needle through the skin and into the cancerous tissue.

George said: “I also had surgery on my face to lift my eye a little – they used part of my ear believe it or not! So very clever and I was pleased with the result.

“The team effort involved was tremendous, from the doctors and nurses to the volunteers that made you a cup of tea. It was a marvellous experience overall and their kindness made my journey so much better.”

George is now in remission and enjoying time with his wife Jean and wider family, including his four grandchildren.

He told us : “I love riding motorbikes. I have just sold my 1955 BSA Gold Flash but plan to buy a lighter bike soon and get back out there. I also have my faith in God and I know I can turn to him anytime.

“I suppose I do have a positive attitude, but I am human too and we all need a wee boost up.”

George’s oncologist, Dr Ioanna Nixon called him “an incredible man” whose story was a “vivid example of resilience”.

She added: “I remember his words about what cancer stands for to him. Concern, Anger, Negative thoughts, Care, Encouragement, Recovery.

“George’s experience sums up how many people react when they are faced with a cancer diagnosis. His words mean a lot to me as a doctor and it reminds me of why I came into medicine – to care for people.

“People have unique needs and stories and it’s our job to be on their side as an ally to fight cancer.”

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