Leading Research into Head & Neck Cancer


Tracey Johnson

Walking the West Highland Way

In 2014, my brother Ian lost his 12 month long battle with cancer. Ian had a very rare form of cancer, a tumour in the Ethmoid (sinus) cavity. A tumour may grow in a cavity undetected for some time before any symptoms are experienced and Ian’s cancer was diagnosed in April 2013 after a trip to the dentist to investigate toothache.

The original tumour was removed and then followed up with Radiotherapy and Targeted (chemo) Therapy. All seemed to be going well and he and Colleen enjoyed a well-deserved week recuperating on the beach in Zanzibar once the treatment had been completed in October.

We all went out to South Africa for Christmas 2013 and we had a super time at Zimbali on the coast just north of Durban. On Christmas Eve we went for a massage at the spa and while we were relaxing together afterwards he told us that he had found a pea-sized lump in his neck.

Following further investigation, more surgery was required and Ian made a very brave decision to delay this until after his step-daughter’s wedding on 24th January in Mauritius so that he could give her away. He went in for surgery straight after and he woke up to find his right eye had been removed as well as the lump from his neck. The doctors were still very positive and Ian was back at work, even driving with just the one eye, but from then on he suffered from headaches and by April the cancer was diagnosed as terminal with multiple tumours on the brain. We were advised he had less than 2 weeks to live – it was Easter Monday just a few weeks after his 47th Birthday.

Ian fought so hard to stay with us but the cancer was very aggressive, each day we were there we could see the tumours growing even through his skull. Late in the evening on 3rd May he sadly died, surrounded by all his family, and while ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ (ZZ-Top) was playing on his I-Pod. He had to have been aware of that, he was always a ZZ-Top fan and clearly he wasn’t going to leave us while my choice of ‘Flying Without Wings’ (Westlife) was playing!

Ian fought so hard to stay with us and I wanted to do something positive around the sad anniversary of our losing him. That’s why, with Nic and our good friends Graham and Salliann, we set off to walk the 96 miles from Milngavie to Fort William in 7 days, starting Friday 8th May 2015. After a long , tiring journey, we managed to raise almost £900 in his memory.

While public awareness of head and neck cancers may not be as high as for other cancers, they can be very visible and traumatic for both the patient and their carers. I wanted to help raise funds to support the work of Oracle Cancer Trust to help avoid such traumas for other families.

In this section

Ian Joyson
Ian Joyson

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Oracle Cancer Trust is a registered charity in England and Wales (1142037). A company limited by guarantee. Registered company in England and Wales (7125497). Registered address: 10 Parsons Green House, 27 Parsons Green Lane, London SW6 4HH.