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'Car Crash Saved My Life'

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7:01am 19th December 2013

A Falmouth grandad tells Pirate FM how he did not realise he had cancer, until he was in a car accident.

Peter Telling and his wife were both injured in the crash near Helston earlier this year.

But an x-ray picked up that Peter was in fact fighting lung cancer.

He is recovering after being whisked straight into Treliske for pioneering treatment: "I was told I had cancer on my right lung. It was a shock because I had had no symptoms. There was no weight loss, no cough, no shortness of breath and I used to go for long walks every day. I had once smoked but not for 30 years.

"I had been a policeman for 30 years with Cornwall Constabulary working in Liskeard, Looe, Fowey, Mawnan Smith and Falmouth so I hadn't done industrial work which could have put me in contact with high risk substances."

Peter, 73, was told his cancer was unusual in that it was at the top of the lung and this meant surgery wasn't an option. He was sent for a lung biopsy and then met Clinical Oncology consultant Toby Talbot.

Peter said: "Toby is an absolutely fantastic man. He told us all about the cancer, what the biopsy had shown and what he was going to do. He was quite confident he could do something for me which was very reassuring to hear because you do think 'that's it' when you hear the big C word."

Peter was to be the first lung cancer patient to use the Trust's new TrueBeam Linear Accelerator or Linac as it is known. The technology allows doctors to deliver radiotherapy with unparalleled speed and accuracy and ensures patients receive state-of-the-art treatment for their cancer.

"Toby was quite confident and clearly delighted with the new machine, just so proud of it. He said his plan was for me to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the same time."

Peter admits his first all day chemotherapy session was a bit daunting and this was followed a week later by a shorter half day session. "During the third session I was taken down for radiotherapy for the first time. Then it was 33 continuous days of radiotherapy on the new machine."

Peter finished his treatment in June and after a follow-up has been told that so far things are looking good and the cancer has shrunk considerably. "I feel quite well and fortunately we have been told my cancer is the slow growing kind which is good. I feel very fortunate and I am just so grateful."

Peter, a father of two and grandfather of six, has had tremendous support from all his family. "I'm also lucky because my daughter-in-law Liz is a Radiographer at the hospital. I said I wanted her to be told everything about my treatment and that meant she was able to explain things to us more."

Peter is keen to praise the care and treatment he received. "Until it happens to you, you just don't realise the numbers of people being treated for cancer in Cornwall. Lowen Ward was always full as was the Headland unit. The staff were just brilliant everywhere I went from Headland to Lowen to the oncology area. I just don't know how they cope with it all the time. They are amazing people. There was nothing that could have been done better. Even the Friends were always there with a free cup of tea and a chat if you wanted one. We always dropped a small donation in their tin."

Looking back, Peter's wife Wendy said: "It was the best accident we have ever had. My cousin told Peter that when he is better he should have a party and invite the van driver to thank him!"

Toby Talbot, Clinical Oncology Consultant, said: "Peter was indeed lucky to have his lung cancer picked up at a stage where potentially curative treatment could be given. The majority of lung cancer patients have progressed too far by the time they seek treatment.

"Peter had already passed the point where surgery was possible but he could still be treated with radiotherapy. Using chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy increases the chances of cure but also very much increase the side effects as Peter found.

"What has been different in Peter's case is the new radiotherapy machine, the TrueBeam linear accelerator. This machine allows extremely accurate delivery of treatment meaning we can be absolutely sure where the radiation is going. Once a patient is on the treatment couch, a type of CT scan is performed and compared with the original planning scan on which all of the calculations are performed (this is how we know how much radiation to shine at which parts of the body) and any errors in patient position are detected and adjusted for.

"We are now making adjustments of fractions of a millimetre - this is unprecedented accuracy and means the areas we treat can be smaller, side effects are less and success rates higher.

"This has been a huge investment from the Trust in collaboration with the Sunrise Appeal and means that patients in Cornwall can access world class radiotherapy treatment without having to leave the county, something few people want to do when ill."

7:01am 19th December 2013

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