A dad who married the love of his life only weeks after being diagnosed with a rare cancer has been chosen as the face of a new campaign designed to save lives.
Craig Speirs, from Elderslie, brought his dream wedding day forward by a year after tests revealed tumours in his liver.
Now he’s teamed up with his wife Angela and children, Rhianne, eight, and Adam, one, to launch World Cancer Day in Scotland.
Photo: (From Left ot Right) Adam, Craig, Angela and Rhianne
Craig, 37, was a Royal Engineer in the army and first developed symptoms including abdominal pain, hot flushes and diarrhoea in 2010 when he worked as a security company manager. But after dozens of visits to his GP it wasn’t until October 2013 that tests at the Royal Alexandra hospital in Paisley finally revealed cancer.
“It was horrific as I’d gone along to the hospital on my own. He said: “The doctor drew a stick figure with some organs on it and said, ‘Mr Speirs, you have carcinoid tumours. I asked, “Are you telling me I have cancer?” He said, “Yes”. My next question was, “Is it curable?” He said, “It’s treatable but not curable.”
Photo: Craig in hospital during treatment
Video: Cancer Research UK
“I felt overwhelmed and just needed to go home to speak to my family. Angela and I had already set a date in to get married in the summer of 2015 but suddenly I felt like I was in a race against time. It was autumn 2013 and I was in shock. I was scared I may only have months to live. We cancelled the summer wedding and instead turned all the new wedding arrangements around in just 12 weeks.”
It was an emotional moment when Craig and Angela married at the Beardmore Hotel, Clydebank on 15th February 2014. Their daughter Rhianne was a flower girl and around 70 guests watched the couple exchange their vows.
Craig said: “No one knows what is going to happen in the future but I knew Angela was the one for me.
“I was determined not to miss out on the opportunity to marry her. Angela looked so beautiful on our wedding day and I wanted to make it her perfect day. It was a chance to forget for a few hours all the tough moments we’d been through and to celebrate with the people we loved.”
By his wedding day, Craig also had more information about the cancer he was fighting. Doctors explained that Craig had neuroendocrine tumours in his gut which had spread to his liver. The neuroendocrine system is made up of nerve and gland cells. It makes hormones and releases them in to the bloodstream. Neuroendocrine cells in the gut make hormones to control the release of digestive juices in to the gut and the muscles that move food through the bowel. A neuroendocrine tumour interferes with this process leading to either too little of certain hormones or the wrong hormones being released in the wrong place.
Photo: Craig and Angela on their wedding day
Craig began a course of injections every four weeks in an effort to stop the cancer from growing. He also endured surgery in June 2014 then again in September 2014 at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer centre in Glasgow to cut off some of the blood supply to the tumours. The treatment meant he was well enough to spend precious time with his family and on July 9 2016, Craig was overjoyed when his son Adam was born.
Craig said: “I was there when Adam was born and I’ll never forget the moment the midwife put Adam in to my arms for the first time.
“Both my kids mean the world to me. I tell my daughter that daddy has a monster in his belly and that I have to go to hospital regularly to have the monster put to sleep.”
Craig is now due to start peptide receptor radionuclide therapy, radiotherapy to cancer from inside the body. The radioactive substance will be given to Craig through a drip in his arm every eight to 12 weeks. And Craig knows exactly what he’s aiming for in 2018.
Craig said: “In 2018 I’m hoping for love, friendships and to continue to be the best dad that I can be to my children.
“I want simple things like good times spent in the park on a Saturday afternoon with my family. But I’m also hoping for the big things like new and better treatments for cancer for me and for everyone else out there who has cancer. That’s why World Cancer Day is so important.”
One in two people born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime and although survival has doubled since the early 1970s, Cancer Research UK needs everyone to act right now to help speed up progress and see more people survive the disease.
Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK spokeswoman in Scotland, said: “We are very grateful to Craig for his support and showing how important it is for everyone to wear a Unity band on World Cancer Day.
By making a donation of just £2, people across Scotland will be able to help fund crucial research to help give more men, women and children more precious time. More bands worn means more lives saved.”
Cancer Research UK’s Unity bands are for World Cancer Day which is Sunday 4th February 2018.
Every day, around 87 people are diagnosed with cancer in Scotland so by wearing a Unity Band, people can show solidarity with those affected by the disease. It means raising money for more research, more treatments and more cures which help give people more precious time doing the things they love.
The family are urging Scots to wear a Unity band with pride. The bands, available for a suggested donation of £2, feature a classic reef knot design to symbolise the strength of people coming together to unite against cancer. Available in three different colours – pink, navy and blue – the bands can be worn in memory of a loved one, to celebrate people who’ve overcome the disease or in support of those going through treatment.
Craig said: “I’ll keep on fighting and I’m determined to do everything I can to help other people suffering from his horrible disease.
“I have so much to live for. I want to see my son start school and walk my daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. I’d like to dance with my wife on our silver wedding anniversary and read stories to my grandchildren. There is life after cancer today thanks to research and thanks to scientists developing better treatments for the disease. Just by wearing a Unity band, everyone can help make a real difference to people with cancer.”