Leading Research into Head & Neck Cancer

Walking in memory of Nigel Sampson

Nigel’s widow, Nikki Sampson, shares her story about the walk in memory of her late husband.

On Sunday 23rd October 2016, friends and family gathered to take part in a six mile walk in memory of Nigel Sampson who lost his battle with Head and Neck cancer on 14th July 2016 aged 56. 113 people and beloved hounds joined together for the walk titled ‘Up Down & All Around with Nigel’, which was part of the Isle of Wight Walking Festival.

His wife Nikki Sampson said Nigel discovered a lump on the left side of his neck in 2011, which was diagnosed as a secondary cancer site, the primary site being unknown.  He was given two months to two years to live.  The news was devastating and really knocked us for six, suddenly our world was turned upside down and the future was unknown. Nigel had a neck dissection in October 2011, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.  A PET scan later identified the primary site on the back of the tongue.

Nigel suffered a further set back when it was discovered the cancer had spread to his lungs and bones.  Having completed a further programme of treatments he was referred to the Royal Marsden London to consider the possibilities of taking part in clinical trials.  It was during this visit that a weakness in Nigels legs was due to a tumour pressing on the spine.  Nigel was transferred to the Queen Alexander Hospital London for emergency spinal surgery.  The surgeon explained the only option was to operate and remove the tumour to relieve the pressure on the spine and explained there was a risk of nerve damage. Radiotherapy would initially cause swelling and due to the proximity of the tumour with the spinal nerve this was not an option. Nikki recalls the day at the Royal Marsden when they received the news and the feelings of devastation and despair, it felt like we were on a rollercoaster that we couldn’t get off of, it was just one challenge after another.

Following his spinal surgery, Nigel was accepted and enrolled on a clinical trial at the Royal Marsden under the care of Professor Harrington. It was during his attendance for his second course of treatment that investigation established the tumour on his spine had grown back.  He was referred for radiotherapy treatment which meant his part in the trial was suspended.

Nigel endured many challenges over his five year illness, from dealing with the effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy which is so invasive.  His side affects included a lack of appetite, loss of taste and difficulty eating resulting in feeding through a food tube, hair loss and immense fatigue. Nikki remembers how brutal the treatment was and the feelings of despair seeing a loved one struggling to eat and coping with everyday activities through immense fatigue.  It is just heartbreaking watching someones life being turned on its head, one minute enjoying life with a long future ahead being so active and enjoying cycling, running, walking,and socialising with family and friends to having to consider everything that you do and if you have the energy to do them.

Nikki recalls the incredible strength and determination Nigel had in the fight of his disease and how he wanted to keep life as normal as possible.  He continued to work as an Industrial Radiographer throughout his illness until 2016. Nigel was so dignified and couragious in how he dealt with his battle, he never lost his sense of humour and continued to put everyone before himself right to the end, he was a true inspiration to everyone that knew him.

Says Nigels widow Nikki, “It is such a horrible, devastating disease that affects so many people.  More needs to be done to help the development of early stage treatment.”

When Nikki heard of Oracle Cancer Trust and the hugely important work in the battle for prevention, it was obvious that this was the charity she wanted to support.

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