Michael Conway, a former Milton Keynes builder, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017, when he was aged 66. The shocking diagnosis left him “devastated” and sure it was a “death sentence”.
The cancer is associated with the lining of the lungs and is linked to exposure to asbestos, even if the contact was decades before.
Mr Conway told BuckinghamshireLive: “To be diagnosed with mesothelioma was such a shock. I have never known a day’s illness in my life and the news turned our world upside down.
“To be told out of the blue you have an inoperable, terminal disease is devastating.”
Mr Conway is married to Denise, and they both have two children Hayley, 40, and Daniel, 44. He also has three grandchildren.
After his diagnosis, Mr Conway went to specialist asbestos-related disease lawyers at the firm Irwin Mitchell to investigate where he could have been exposed to the hazardous material.
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Mr Conway was referred to mesothelioma specialist Professor Dean Fennell, director of the Mesothelioma Research Programme at the Leicester Cancer Research Centre.
There was an opportunity to take part in a drug trial of Nivolumab and Ipilimumab, a drug that boosts the immune system to attack the cancer, and Mr Conway “jumped at the chance”.
He said: “When I was given the news of my diagnosis, I thought it was a death sentence. I had nothing to lose and the knowledge that there was an option provided some much needed hope and positivity during a very dark period.”
“I am still having regular checks but I have not needed any further treatment and there has been no further growth in the tumours.
“While I don’t fully know what the future holds, I am thankful beyond words for the benefit I have had and I cherish every day I can spend time with my family.”
Mr Conway has also won a legal case against his previous employers and the company has agreed to fund any private treatment.
The drug is to be made available on the NHS after the trial reported a success rate of up to 40 percent for patients with terminal asbestos cancer.
Additional reporting by Emily Craigie.