Gateshead grandad to do 42nd Great North Run following terminal cancer diagnosis

Credit -  Irwin Mitchell
Ron Snaith, 68, will join 60,000 other runners along the Tyneside route. He wants to use the event to raise awareness around the dangers of asbestos, and make his family proud.  Credit: Irwin Mitchell

A grandad from Gateshead who was given months to live is taking part in the Great North Run years after the fatal prognosis.

Ron Snaith from Ryton was told he had three to nine months to live when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma - a cancer caused by asbestos - in December 2018.

Five years later, the grandad-of-eight is running his 42nd Great North Run to raise awareness around the dangers of asbestos, and to make his family proud.

The 68-year-old will be joining 60,000 other runners along the famous Tyneside route on Sunday 10 September.

The former ship-yard worker is also one of 80 people to have taken part in every Great North Run since it began in 1981.

As an avid runner throughout his life, he said: “When I was given my diagnosis, it was a huge shock as I had always been healthy and loved to keep fit.  I regularly walked, ran and cycled, and I even played football until I was 60.

“So to find out I had mesothelioma completely floored me, and then to be told that I had limited life left was absolutely devastating.

“My condition is slowly worsening and I suffer from pain and shortness of breath, but I’m still quite fit and healthy and determined to keep living my life to the full as best I can.”

He added: “Over the past few months, I’ve been training for the Great North Run.  I’ve done it 41 times before and I won’t let anything stop me from getting to number 42.  But I know it wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing support I’ve had from my partner Denise, my family, friends, and also my legal team who have helped me get the treatment I need."

Mesothelioma is a terminal cancer in the lining of the lungs, and is normally associated with exposure to asbestos often decades previously.

In Mr Snaith's case this is thought to be from his work in the former Tyneside and Yorkshire ship-yards.

Before being diagnosed, he was working with his son Paul as a joiner and site foreman, but was forced to give this up in autumn 2018 due to his symptoms.

Credit: Irwin Mitchell

Since being diagnosed, Ron has undergone more tests, and been part of a medical trial to look at whether chemotherapy alone or a combination of chemotherapy and surgery is best for patients with mesothelioma.

He has endured chemotherapy, surgery to remove the lining between the lungs and chest wall, and decortication which involves removal of tumours from the surface of the lung.

Through lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, Mr Snaith managed to get a settlement from a former employer in connection with asbestos exposure. The funds mean Ron has been able to take part in a new clinical trial to extend his life.

Mr Snaith continued: “Sadly nothing will change what I’m going through, so all I want to do now is help others by raising awareness around mesothelioma and how dangerous asbestos is.  It’s awful to think that when I worked at the shipyards, my workmates and I would throw snowballs made of it.  We were totally unaware of the risks back then.

“I have a saying – if you don’t use it, you lose it – and it’s really important for me to challenge myself and keep going as long as I can.  I’m still here more than four-and-a-half years and I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped me get here.”

Ian Toft and Ron Snaith training ahead of the Great North Run. Credit: Irwin Mitchell

Ian Toft, a specialist asbestos-related disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell is joining Ron for the 13.1 miles. He said: “Understandably the past few years haven’t been easy for Ron as he came to terms with his diagnosis and what it means for him and his family. However, he’s shown such strength and courage as he attempts to continue living his life as he always has.

“Sadly Ron’s case is typical of those we’ve been involved in where many of Tyneside’s shipyard workers have gone on to develop mesothelioma many years after their exposure occurred. It’s another reminder of the terrible legacy asbestos has created in the region."

Mr Toft added: “Ron is a real inspiration to so many and is determined to help others affected by mesothelioma by raising awareness of the risks still posed by asbestos."

Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos. Credit: Irwin Mitchell

Ron is one of 36 runners raising money for Mesothelioma UK at the Great North Run.

Jill Lemon, senior fundraiser, from the charity said: "Ron is an amazing man who, alongside his awe-inspiring running achievements, also continues to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos.

“At this year's Great North Run, there will be 36 people running for Mesothelioma UK including our CEO, Liz Darlison and me, plus other members of staff, so Ron will be in good company."

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