IN 2012, retired Leeds and Otley GP Dr John Nathan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
And now, five years later, after gruelling surgery, chemotherapy and a prolonged recovery, John counts himself a rare and fortunate survivor.
To mark his 70th birthday in November, he is taking part in a six-day trek in the Grand Canyon.
Joining John will be close friend Dr Geoff Lipman and a like-minded group, who will be raising money for Pancreatic Cancer UK.
John, who lives in Alwoodley with wife Jackie, has been in training, walking up hills and also walking to and from his job at the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.
Pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest cancer killer in the UK.
John’s family has a history of cancer. He suffered from testicular cancer when aged only 29.
“Forty years ago, the treatment was much the same as it is now, with surgery and radiotherapy,” John explained.
“It was probably a predisposing factor in my getting pancreatic cancer because radiotherapy damaged my pancreas.”
John subsequently became aware he and members of his close family carried the potentially lethal faulty BRCA2 gene, which predisposes women to breast and ovarian cancer and men to prostate and pancreatic cancer.
His mother and some of her sisters died of breast cancer, too, while two of his children, Danielle Rose and Marc, carry the gene.
Danielle, who now lives in London, had thyroid cancer 11 years ago and elected to have both breasts removed as a precautionary measure. She recently gave birth to a daughter, Olivia, by a technique called PGD which bypasses the faulty gene.
For Marc, it means an increased risk of cancer, particularly prostate, pancreatic and male breast cancer.
“I am a pragmatic sort of person, so I just get on with life and I don’t get depressed,” John added.
“It has been emotionally hard for me to see my children suffer, but I take it as a challenge.
“My family are all very supportive and they are all of the same mindset.”
John, who is just £500 short of his £5,000 target for Pancreatic Cancer UK, is a member of the United Hebrew Congregation.
He said he anticipates “quite a party” on his return from the Grand Canyon.
He continued: “The money I raise I would like to earmark for research, as this will be the only way to finally conquer this particularly difficult disease.”
To donate, visit: tinyurl.com/TrekCanyon