A cancer patient from Norwich will be celebrating being 5 years' cancer free this Christmas. In a heartfelt video message, he thanks the surgeon who saved his life at Manchester’s internationally acclaimed cancer centre, The Christie.

Retired company director, Neil Bridgstock (65) found out this week that he could celebrate being 5 years' cancer free thanks to the specialised surgery performed by consultant colorectal and laparoscopic surgeon, Mr Omer Aziz.

Neil was diagnosed with rectal cancer in August 2015 at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. His goddaughter was working as a specialist nurse at The Christie at the time and she suggested he ask for a second opinion from The Christie.


Picture: Neil Bridgstock thanking his surgeon Mr Omer Aziz

“The moment I met Omer at our initial consultation, I was comfortable and at ease,” said Neil. “He has such a calm and assuring persona, so I was very happy to go ahead and have my surgery with him a few weeks later.
“It was recommended that I have something called ‘salvage’ surgery. Omer explained that the abdominoperineal resection would be done through laparoscopic surgery. He described exactly what was involved and how my recovery time would be improved.
“I went home and watched an entire abdominoperineal resection on YouTube to understand the procedure from my perspective and the surgeons.”

Neil’s surgery took place on 7 September 2016 during a 4 hour operation headed by Mr Aziz. The surgery involves the removal of the anus, rectum and sigmoid colon and is most often used to treat rectal cancers located very low in the rectum.

Following the surgery, Neil was an inpatient at The Christie for 7 days and was then able to return home to Norwich. Since then, he has had regular surveillance scans, at least once a year, to check that cancer has not returned.

“I have to admit that I do get anxious before each scan,” said Neil. “When you have had cancer, you always know at the back of your mind that there is a chance it might come back. I’m vigilant about looking for any worrying symptoms because I know that early treatment is so important.
“I’ve been living in the shadow of cancer for more than 5 years so when I found out that the most recent scan was clear it came as a huge relief. Reaching 5 years after treatment is a major milestone for me and I count every day as a bonus. I really cannot thank Omer and The Christie enough.
“The Christie was simply fantastic. From the ward staff to the consultant surgeons and the facilities, I have never experienced such a calming, sympathetic, and efficient organisation operating in such challenging circumstances.
“Omer’s demeanour is quite remarkable. I witnessed how he managed to empathise and reassure his patients in such emotional situations. I was really concerned that I was having major surgery taking several hours but it became so easy to deal with knowing he was at my side, before, during and post operation.
“I went skiing that Christmas thinking it might be my last but here I am 5 years on, and Omer still replies promptly and with humour to my emails whenever I need a bit of reassurance.”

Neil was so thankful for the surgery that he sponsored Mr Aziz £100 to run in the London Marathon this year. “There will be times when a cancer diagnosis will not be as kind as mine,” he said. “That was why I sponsored Omer. Being diagnosed with cancer is a day no one predicts or wants but we need people like Omer there when and if it comes.”

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust was the first specialist trust to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ twice (in 2016 and 2018) by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It referred to The Christie as ‘a leader in cancer care’ and ‘a pioneer in developing innovative solutions to cancer care.’ The CQC praised the Trust’s staff which it said ‘go the extra mile to meet the needs of patients and their families’ and that they were ‘exceptionally kind and caring.’ In 2017, the CQC rated The Christie as the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England. 

Last updated: January 2022