Man, 70, discovered he had cancer only after climbing accident

Cancer is often reluctant to show many warning signs before it advances. Dave Green, 70, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, had “practically no symptoms” before his myeloma diagnosis. The 70-year-old man only found out he had the daunting condition after a child broke his back during an accident.

Dave, who used to work as a climbing instructor, was running a rock-climbing taster session when a child unexpectedly let go of the wall, “flopped” on top of him and broke his back.

Scans later revealed that his bones had been “honeycombed” by myeloma, which describes an incurable bone marrow cancer.

Bone marrow is the spongy tissue at the centre of certain bones that produces the body’s blood cells.

Due to the location, this type of cancer can cause holes in the bones which happened in Dave’s case, leaving his bones resembling a honeycomb.

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The 70-year-old believes that if the accident hadn’t occurred, his cancer might have not been picked up in time.

He said: “Fortunately for me, in the long term this fall exposed a weakness in my bones – they had been honeycombed out by the myeloma but I had practically no symptoms until that point.

“I maybe didn’t have the energy I once had but I put that down to the fact that I was no longer a young man.

“In a way, I was lucky I was diagnosed before any more damage was done.

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“Perhaps everyone in their late 50s should be stress-tested by a child falling down on them.”

Despite Dave having no symptoms, some of the tell-tale signs of myeloma can include persistent bone pain (usually in the back, ribs or hips), tiredness, repeated infections, bruising, and weak bones that fracture easily, according to the NHS.

After the accident, Dave went to his GP about severe back pain but was quickly dismissed.

But after two weeks of back and forth with the doctor, Dave was referred to have an X-Ray that led to a myeloma diagnosis in November 2011.

Dave said: “Once it started to sink in, my reaction was, ‘How long have I got and how do I increase that time?’

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“They said that the median life expectancy was five to eight years. I seem to have done that plus some more.”

Dave initially wore a brace to help support his back but as the damage was too severe, he had to have surgery.

He has since received two stem-cell transplants, signed up to two clinical trials and is now on his fourth round of treatments.

Dave, who is “still going strong”, said: “There have been many ups and downs both in terms of response to treatment and the emotional and physical rollercoaster it’s caused.”

The pensioner is now raising awareness of myeloma and has also joined Myeloma UK’s peer buddy service, where he gives support to recently diagnosed patients.

Dave, who has two stepchildren, added: “When you’re first diagnosed, all the treatments sound very scary, there is this new language we all have to learn.

“You first encounter medical professionals in all their grades.

“Friends and family are absolutely supportive but you can feel a bit like you’re in the centre of this circle being pointed at. People don’t know what it feels like.

“People have done everything they can to support me and I want to do that in my turn.”

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