Jim Kershaw: Beating the odds against GI cancer

Jim Kershaw started to feel unwell in 2001. He ignored telling anyone about the symptoms for as long as he could, especially his wife Carol – he didn’t want her to worry.

Eventually he had a colonoscopy. It confirmed the worst. Jim had colon cancer.

“You think your world’s come to an end,” says Jim. “You just think it’s all over. You don’t know the result, what’s going to happen.”

Jim had surgery to remove his tumour, followed by six months of chemotherapy. The side effects were harsh but at first the treatment seemed to have worked.

In 2003, however, doctors discovered the cancer had spread to his liver. They gave him just eight months to live. Jim underwent another major surgery.

Then Jim’s oncologist, Professor Desmond Yip, recommended him for a clinical trial.

“It kind of blew me away,” Jim says. “It felt like I’d won. Doctors were telling me there’s hope.”

One of the problems with treating advanced colon cancer is that the cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body. Jim took part in a clinical trial, which gave him access to new treatments that fought the spread of the cancer to his liver.

“We’ve been tied up in the cancer since 2001, and every time we go back it’s something new, it’s improving all the time,” he says. He admits that it has been an ongoing struggle, saying, “It’s a 24/7 thing on your mind.”

“He used to say to me that every time he got an ache or a pain, he would think, “I wonder is the cancer back?” says Carol. “You just live from one day to the next.”

Jim has now been living with cancer for almost 18 years. Cancer has not taken his mobility – he still works, and he and Carol spend as much time as possible with their family. They see their grandchildren every day, and Jim takes his grandson to football training every Saturday.

“He keeps us going, keeps me going,” says Jim.

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