Normanby grandad 'on borrowed time' praises hospital's award-winning team after myeloma diagnosis

Ian and Carole Carrick say they are taking each day as it comes after Ian was diagnosed with an incurable cancer known as myeloma. Credit: Family

A grandfather who has an incurable cancer has said he is taking every day as it comes after being diagnosed with the hard-to-spot disease.

Ian Carrick, was diagnosed with myeloma - a type of bone marrow cancer - in 2020 after experiencing severe back pain, which then spread to his chest.

By the time he was diagnosed, the 79-year-old, from Normanby, near Middlesbrough, had a broken back and three tumours pushing down on his spine.

The team which has been looking after him at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, has now won an award for its work helping patients with myeloma.

Mr Carrick praised the outreach team, who visit patients to allow them to receive treatment and blood tests in the comfort of their own homes and said they "never let them down" during lockdown.

Mr Carrick, who was previously diagnosed with a cancerous mass on his pelvis, known as a plasmacytoma, and had a heart attack in 2022, said: "I know I’m on borrowed time but we enjoy every day and we go on as we always do.”

The retired civil engineer added: “Even after all the treatments you can still be enjoying your life.

“Everybody at the hospital has been absolutely superb. They give us peace of mind.”

Ian and Carole Carrick with Dr Marianna David, haematology consultant at James Cook University Hospital. Credit: South Tees NHS Foundation Trust

Mrs Carrick, who worked for the NHS, added: “Ian was so poorly I don’t know how we would have got him to the hospital at the time.

"The nurses have always said, ‘When we see Ian’s name on the list, we’re fighting to see who gets to go see him’. They’ve been wonderful. Helen Walker, who is Ian’s key worker, has been so patient.

"I was so frightened, and I kept asking questions. If there was anything she couldn’t answer, she would find out and ring me back. She always did.”

It is the second time the hospital's haematology team has won a national award for its work with myeloma patients.

Dr Raymond Dang, consultant haematologist at James Cook University Hospital, said: ''At James Cook, we are proud to be working as a well-connected and happy team. I hope our joy in what we do is visible to patients and gives them confidence that their myeloma care is in very good hands.''

Despite being the 19th most common type of cancer in the UK, myeloma is especially hard to spot as the symptoms are often vague and dismissed as ageing or other minor conditions due to it mostly affecting people over 65.

By the time many patients are diagnosed their cancer has often advanced and they require urgent treatment, impacting their chances of survival and quality of life.

Myeloma - what is it?

Myeloma is a type of bone marrow cancer. Bone marrow is the spongy tissue at the centre of some bones that produces the body's blood cells.

It's called multiple myeloma as the cancer often affects several areas of the body, such as the spine, skull, pelvis and ribs.

What are the symptoms of myeloma?

The NHS says in the early stages myeloma may not cause symptoms. Eventually it can cause a wide range of problems, including:

  • Persistent bone pain, usually in the back, or hips

  • Tiredness, weakness and shortness of breath

  • High levels of calcium in the blood, which can cause symptoms like extreme thirst, stomach pain, needing to wee frequently, constipation or confusion

  • Weight loss

  • Blurred vision, dizziness or headaches

  • Repeated infections

  • Bruising and unusual bleeding

  • Weak bones that break easily

  • Kidney problems

Jess Turner, the clinical practice services programme manager at Myeloma UK, which gave the team at James Cook the award, said: “The outreach service is a great example of staff’s efforts to, quite literally, go the extra mile to support the most vulnerable.

"Thanks to haematology outreach nurse specialist Helen Walker and her team, patients get to receive treatment and blood tests in the comfort and safety of their own home or care home."

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