Press release posted 5 July 2023
A retired schoolteacher from Leyland in Lancashire, who was treated for cancer 46 years ago, has shared how he owes his life to The Christie in Manchester and the NHS.
Howard Lockett, age 73, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in his right lung in 1977. He was working as a science teacher in a secondary school in Chorley and living in Blackburn.
“I was getting pain in my face, just on the right-hand side,” said Howard. "I saw my GP and was referred to Blackburn Hospital. They did an X-ray and found the cancer.
“Back in the 1970s, we didn’t know much about cancer, but everyone at the time thought it was a death sentence. I was referred to Dr Kennedy at The Christie. He was young but very ambitious. I remember him talking about my case to a room full of other specialists.
“My cancer treatment included radiation therapy and a drug combination of vinblastine and vincristine. I think this might have been the first time the two drugs had been used in combination.
“I was aware that it was an experimental treatment and knew that The Christie was a pioneer in cancer research, so I felt lucky to have access to this treatment. I am convinced it was a better combination than other treatments available at the time and that it saved my life.
“It was tough, and, in the end, I think they let me off the last session because I was too ill, but thankfully it worked, and I'm still here nearly 50 years later.
“There were others who were treated alongside me, and I would see them at follow-up appointments, but as time passed, I saw fewer and fewer of them and learned that they had died. I'm fortunate to have beaten the odds because The Christie is an extraordinary place.
"When the treatment finished, I thought I was done and could return to normal, but there were complications. Around 2 years later, I had to have part of my right lung removed as the radiotherapy had damaged it.
“Then a scan showed that I had aortic stenosis with a build-up of calcium in my heart, again, a result of the cancer treatment. A specialist at Blackpool Hospital replaced the aortic valve and did a double coronary artery bypass graft with two veins from my leg taken and moved to the heart. I'm on tablets to keep my heart rhythm healthy for the rest of my life.
“The NHS has looked after me throughout my life, from broken bones and pulled tendons to cancer and heart surgery and is the only reason I am still alive.
“I have very recently had an annual check-up at Blackpool Hospital and am thrilled to have been given a clean bill of health at the age of 73.
“I genuinely believe that I have benefitted from being at the forefront of developments in medical science and NHS services throughout my life. I would not be here without them.
“Advances in cancer research in the 1970s cured me, progress in heart surgery in the 1980s kept my heart beating, and finally, I have been blessed to have three wonderful children thanks to innovations in fertility treatment and IVF.
Howard, who is a keen walker, has hiked the length and breadth of England, Wales and Scotland over the fells and mountains, including the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast.