Asbestos related cancer will kill me one day but until then I will enjoy every moment

Liam with his wife, Bryony

As Bryony tells me, we’ll only worry about growing if it actually happens (Picture: Liam Bradley)

I will always remember the complete shock of being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

“You have asbestos-related cancer,” the consultant told me in March 2017. “It’s incurable.”

They were words I never thought I’d hear, as a fit and healthy 30-year-old man.

Immediately me and my partner, Bryony, fell to pieces. I had a two-year-old daughter at home, Nevaeh, whom I adore. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her, growing up without a father.

I had only gone to the hospital because in November 2016 I had bumped my head and cracked my neck during a soft play. I was nauseous and Bryony advised me to go straight to the hospital.

I had broken my neck — and hip, ribs, and elbow — after falling off a three-story building in September 2015 while working as a roofer, and although I was nearing recovery, I kept a close eye on my health.

There, doctors told me that my neck was fine, but my right lung had collapsed. They blew it up again and taped it up as a temporary measure, but I was booked in for surgery in February 2017 to prevent it from happening again.

But during the surgery, they saw some suspicious white spots and took a biopsy, which showed it was asbestos-related cancer. And it was not curable.

As soon as I heard it, I knew exactly where it came from.

In 2006 I had been working on a new building, but we had to connect the roof of an older factory next door. And when we stopped for lunch, the site manager had asked all of us to wash our hands because there was evidence of asbestos.

I remembered feeling uncomfortable then. We had no dust masks or other asbestos related health and safety.

And now the worst had happened.

When the consultant asked me what symptoms I had, I was unable to give her an answer. I had no symptoms. I still played football and worked full time. I wasn’t out of breath or tired.

I didn’t feel sick at all, but all of a sudden I got a life-limiting diagnosis.

I didn’t want to know a prognosis – to me they were just a doctor’s best bet and I didn’t want it to hang over me.

When I went home, those next six months were a blur. Because I didn’t have to live with it alone. I had to tell my parents, my in-laws, other relatives, friends…

Liam with his family

I’m not angry about what happened. What would be the point? (Photo: Liam Bradley)

My mother and father sobbed when I told them the news. “I can’t bury my son,” Mama had cried.

That was exactly how I felt. I couldn’t leave my daughter — or my parents — behind. Not at such a young age.

My father-in-law, whom I will always remember, put his arm around me. “We’re all in line, Liam,” he told me. “You just know a little more about yourself now.”

Those words changed my view. I started to believe that I had fallen off that roof to save my life. If I hadn’t gone to the hospital that day, I would never have known about the cancer lurking inside me until it was too late.

I started a trial of treatment, receiving four months of chemotherapy and taking four tablets a day, with the cancer remaining stable. It didn’t disappear, but it didn’t get bigger either.

When that was over, Bryony, Nevaeh, and I went on a last-minute three-week vacation to New York, Miami, and Jamaica, where Bryony and I got married in Central Park.

But when we got back, reality hit with a shock.

I lived my life in 12 week chunks between checkups. The days before each scan were a nightmare as I convinced myself that this would be the time it had grown.

I was too scared to book vacations, looking too far into the future. “Will this be my last birthday, my last Christmas?” I would wonder. It was terrifying.

It wasn’t until the tests kept coming back, showing that the cancer was stable, that I finally gained more confidence. As Bryony tells me, we don’t worry about growing until it actually happens.

Two years after my diagnosis, I took legal action against the company I worked for at the time I was exposed to asbestos, sought legal advice from Richard Green of Hugh James Solicitors, and received financial compensation.

Obviously no amount of money can compensate for my health and I would pay it all back – and much, much more – if it meant I was cancer free, but at least now I know my family has a home for when I’m not here Lake. It gives us all a sense of security.

We also bought an apartment in Spain and every month we raffle a free week’s holiday for people with mesothelioma and their families, or the staff who help them.

I’m not angry about what happened. What would be the point? It wouldn’t change anything.

Instead, I wake up every day feeling positive. Bryony and I have had two more daughters, Harper, now three, and Piper, five months, and I love being outnumbered by my girls.

We didn’t tell them of course, it’s heavy enough for Bryony and I to carry around as adults. We don’t want to put it on their shoulders either.

I still have no symptoms. I still work, play football and take on physical challenges. I cycled over 200 miles from Gretna Green to Burton-on-Trent and raised £1,000 for Mesothelioma UK and also did a 55 mile memory walk for my grandmother, who died of the same cancer, from Lincoln to Skegness , where she is buried.

I am also raising money to cycle from Nottingham to Alicante.

Whatever happens in the future, this cancer won’t beat me. Yes, hopefully it will probably cost me my life in the next few years, but I have no control over that. What I do have control over is the time I have now and make the most of it.

Liam was helped by Hugh James Solicitors (www.hughjames.com) to seek justice and get financial compensation in his lawsuit.

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