A dad-of-two has been given a maximum of 16 months to live after being diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer.
John Wooldridge, who has only just become a grandfather, said he first became unwell in August 2020 when he started struggling to eat and drink.
But the 45-year-old admitted he did not see his GP about it until March 1, 2021, by which time he had lost close to three stone and could hardly keep his food down.
Following scans, blood tests, an endoscopy and a laparoscopy, it was discovered that John had a cancerous tumour where his throat meets his stomach, as well as several other “spots” around the stomach itself.
Due to the widespread prevalence of the disease, the Bridgend resident said surgery and radiotherapy can no longer be carried out, with intensive chemotherapy the only option still available to him.
Without any treatment his oncologist said he is looking at between six and eight months to live, but chemotherapy will extend that by a maximum of 16 months.
John is now encouraging anyone who feels anything unusual to get themselves checked by a medical professional so they do not suffer the same fate as him.
“It’s safe to say our world was turned upside down by this news and I was in a dark place for a few weeks, but I have pulled myself up and would love to make the most of my time left,” he said. “If anyone feels unwell or finds lumps anywhere just get it checked out ASAP. It only costs a little time and could save your life in the long run.”
Wales Matters delivers the best of WalesOnline’s coverage of politics, health, education, current affairs and local democracy straight to your inbox.
Now more than ever this sort of journalism matters and we want you to be able to access it all in one place with one click. It’s completely free and you can unsubscribe at any time.
To subscribe, click here, enter your email address and follow the simple instructions.
John, who is dad to daughter Rachel, 23, and son Ryan, 25, as well as grandfather to one-year-old Harper, said he started choking during meals last summer.
“I’d manage to be sick in a tea towel and then I’d feel great. It would happen every couple of weeks and was very intermittent. It happened like that, on and off, for the rest of the year,” he recalled.
“I initially put it down to either eating too fast or stress as I’d just reserved a house which was a big purchase.”
John, from Coity, Bridgend, admitted he was very stubborn and put off going to his doctor to see what was wrong.
“Coronavirus was part of the reason I didn’t go sooner, but I just assumed it would pass and would settle once everything [going on in my life] calmed down,” he admitted.
“But by early February the choking was happening as often as once a week.”
Once he was given the keys to his new house he finally went to his GP on March 1 this year. When he finally got round to mentioning his three stone weight loss it rang alarm bells with the medic who then referred him to hospital to get checked.
An endoscopy was carried out at Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, around 10 days later, followed by blood tests and a CT scan shortly afterwards.
It was then decided that an urgent laparoscopy – a keyhole surgery to analyse his stomach – was needed at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil to explore the problems further.
“When I came around in recovery I was basically told it was probably cancerous, and this was confirmed to me the week after,” he added.
“It felt like I was dreaming, as if it was being told to someone else. It was a bit surreal.”
At times, John said he still kicks himself for not seeking medical help sooner – but he said his GP probably would have just prescribed him antacids before he started losing weight.
“Some days I think ‘John, you prat’, but others I think it’s pointless looking back at it. You’ve got to look forward now.”
A consultant at Velindre Cancer Centre then gave him the dreadful prognosis that he has barely a year left to live even with chemotherapy.
“He told me that this cancer wasn’t going away. He said it to me three times. I can still see the deep look in his eyes,” John said.
“He said if I don’t have chemotherapy then he wouldn’t expect me to see the end of this year. If I had chemo then he said I’d have between 12 and 16 months depending on how well it worked.”
John admitted it was terribly hard telling his two children about his terminal diagnosis, particularly his son Ryan who has learning difficulties.
“I didn’t want to tell anybody [about the cancer diagnosis] at first as it coincided with my granddaughter’s first birthday,” he said.
“I didn’t know whether to go for the chemo as I wasn’t sure how it would affect my quality of life. You see documentaries of people who have spent their final six months bed-ridden, looking like death warmed up.
“After doing my research, I came to the conclusion in the end that it’s got to be worth it. I’ve never given up on anything in my life and I’m not going to start now. I’ve now got the mentality of fighting this all the way to the end.”
John has set up a GoFundMe page so he can tick off a few items on his “bucket list”, including a family trip to Disneyland in Florida, watching a Formula 1 race and making as many memories with his children and granddaughter as possible. To donate to John and his family please go here.
“I have worked hard and long hours my entire life and never claimed benefits, but sadly and stupidly I have not got life insurance either,” he added.
“So please, if you have not got life insurance then get some. You think it will never happen to you, but I can say sadly it does.
“I am not expecting to raise much as there are people out there in a far worse position than me, but I can only hope.”
John has now started his first of eight rounds of IV chemotherapy which has caused him severe fatigue and brain fog.