For an active man who always looks ahead to the next challenge, being diagnosed with mesothelioma and told he had three to nine months to live was a lot to take in. “I was in no man’s land” says Ron, who found himself needing a wheelchair because he was so weak. “I never thought I’d run again.”
VIDEO The Hidden Dangers Of Asbestos
A joiner by trade, Ron started his career as a shipbuilding apprentice in the early 1970s. He was 17 years old. Working on newbuild ships and repairing others meant that he was regularly exposed to asbestos.
The fire-retardant material was heavily used at the time. Cutting marinite boards or mixing paste from asbestos powder caused clouds of dust and asbestos fibres to be released into the air. The Martindale masks provided did nothing to protect Ron and he recalls finding dust and fibres inside them when he took them off. Colleagues would throw snowballs made from asbestos lagging – having no idea of the danger of the materials they were working with.
Over the years, information about the devastating effects of asbestos exposure came to light and some of Ron’s colleagues were diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. He says, “I was aware that it could be me next.”
On holiday in Croatia in September 2018, Ron developed symptoms known to be associated with mesothelioma. On the first day he did a 10-mile run and went for a walk with his partner. The second day he spent walking in the mountains and on the third day he was mountain biking uphill when he suddenly felt very unwell. He shouted at his partner to stop so he could rest. Ron couldn’t carry on.
His GP arranged a blood test and x-ray on his return and referred him for Video Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATs procedure).
The results confirmed he had mesothelioma and Ron received the diagnosis on his partner’s birthday in December 2018.
Ron says, “I was devastated. I’ve always been tough and fit and healthy, and got through everything, but I didn’t think I could get through this.”
Following his diagnosis, Ron’s oncologist referred him for the NHS MARS 2 clinical trial, which aimed to compare the effects of surgery with no surgery in terms of quality of life for mesothelioma patients. He started chemotherapy treatment in February 2019, but the first session was heavy going and made him feel unwell.
As part of the trial, Ron was deemed fit enough to undergo lung-sparing surgery to remove the cancerous tissue at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London on 25 March 2019.
The treatment was a success for Ron, allowing him to return to some of the activities he enjoys. He’s part of a local walking group and he’s started running again.
Ron’s Legal Claim
Ron chose Irwin Mitchell from a list of panel solicitors provided by Mesothelioma UK. We supported him to bring a claim against the ship builders where he was exposed to asbestos.
Within a couple of weeks, we managed to help Ron claim benefits to cover the mortgage and bills because he had to give up work.
His case settled quickly, helped by a portfolio of evidence one of his colleagues created after their own diagnosis. In just a few months, Ron received a substantial interim payment from the other side.
The compensation has given Ron peace of mind and his settlement includes provision for the specialist care and treatment he may need in the future.
Ron says, “Everything just went so smoothly, I couldn’t believe how well it went at the time. When I picked Irwin Mitchell, I knew I’d picked the best for me.”
Our expert lawyer, Emma Bell who continues to support Ron said, “I think Ron’s an absolute inspiration. His motivation and determination are something else. I’ve never known anybody like him. And the amount of people that he’s helped over the years since he was diagnosed himself with mesothelioma, he’s just a real inspiration to everybody.
“If it wasn’t for the legal case, Ron wouldn’t have had the option for private treatment. While the NHS is absolutely brilliant, there are limitations on the treatment it can provide for mesothelioma.
“Trials have shown that some drugs not currently available on the NHS can benefit those who’ve been diagnosed. Many people don’t realise that the cost of drugs and treatment outside the NHS can run into tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds. Without bringing legal action, most people simply can’t afford to access them.”
Mesothelioma is a unique cancer, which is treated differently to lung cancer. There are very few treatment options available on the NHS, which means information about clinical trials and advances in treatment is important. Patients often don’t know where to turn.
We work closely with
Mesothelioma UK and local mesothelioma support groups such as Readley Asbestos and Mesothelioma Support, to ensure our clients have access to specialist care and support.
Both charities have been there for Ron since his diagnosis. Ron’s also supported those who find themselves in a similar situation. “It’s important to have access to others going through the same” says Leah Taylor, Head of Nursing for Mesothelioma UK. “Seeing Ron living well with mesothelioma gives patients hope. When you’re diagnosed you think it’s a bleak picture. Then there’s the other side. That’s Ron. He’s inspirational and his enthusiasm’s infectious to people around him.”
Sam Cox from Readley said, “There’s a deep connection with Ron. He can be the life and soul, celebrate every moment. I like to think we’ve been constant and solid for him too, there for the highs and the lows.”
Looking To The Future
Ron’s competitive spirit and determination to keep going against all the odds are recognised in his nicknames I-Ron Man, King of the Mountains, and Great North Ron.
Great North Ron has taken part in every Great North Run since it was founded in 1981. In September 2023 he’ll compete in his 42nd consecutive race and his thoughts are focused on the finish line.
Ron plans to start immunotherapy treatment after the run because his cancer’s developing. He remains optimistic and his positive mindset drives him to set new challenges. He says, “It’s been a hard road and I want to keep it going. It’s the support that carries us through.”
If you or a loved one’s been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, and you need support and guidance, please reach out to
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