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The NHS saved my life, now I’m working for them

When Geoff Melling started having night sweats he thought he had an imbalanced thyroid, only to later discover it was a rare form of cancer.

In 2013 the 63-year-old kept waking in the night sweating, noticed a change to his bowel habits and was experiencing regular flushing. His GP referred him to University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust. Geoff was sent for tests at Hospital of St Cross, Rugby, where a suspicion of a neuroendocrine tumour (NET) was first picked up.

Geoff, at the time a logistics director for a health procurement company, had a 24 hour urine test followed by MRI and CAT scans, which confirmed a NET on his ileum, part of the small bowel.

In the space of just two months, Geoff had gone from experiencing symptoms to being diagnosed with a NET cancer.

He said: “I was very lucky to get diagnosed so quickly, most people are waiting six or seven years to be told they have a NET cancer.

“Easter 2014 was very daunting as I went for surgery to remove the tumour at University Hospital, Coventry. My life has completely changed since, but it saved my life. My NET cancer is now a chronic condition, rather than acute. I will die with it rather than of it.

“Finding out you have a NET cancer early is so important. If anyone experiences a change of bowel habit, gets night sweats or notices anything unusual for three weeks, they need to get it checked out by a GP. It could save your life.”

The after-effects of the surgery meant Geoff had to leave his director role and have a career break to focus on his health. After a period of recovery and adjusting to his new way of life, Geoff looked to get back into work, securing a role as an executive assistant with Coventry and Warwickshire Health and Care Partnership.

He added: “When you have bowel symptoms you always need to know where a toilet is and think about what you are eating all the time. Commuting on a train was problematic and driving long distances was also a challenge.

“Now I have to take 45 Imodium tablets a day, 12 to 13 with each meal. I’ve lost 21 kilos of weight since I discovered I had a NET and can’t put weight on again.

“Now I’m really enjoying working for the NHS, it feels like I am giving something back after UHCW NHS Trust saved my life and I really do feel like I am making a difference.”

Geoff, whose NET had spread to his liver, lung and lymph’s, now has injections every three weeks to control the growth and symptoms of his tumours. He also had four cycles of Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRT) last year.

“For some PRRT is a magic bullet,” Geoff continued. “I had a five per cent reduction in my tumour, rather than the 60 per cent that some people get.

“My tumour is now stable and not growing. I’ve gone from acute to chronic. It doesn’t figure in my thinking now, it’s my new normal, but it has been a bit hard for my wife and daughter as they see the effects on a daily basis.”

UHCW is one of the UK’s leading Centres of Excellence for the diagnosis, treatment and management of NETs.

NETs affect more than 36,000 people a year in the UK and can occur in people of any age or gender, and can develop in many different places in the body.

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