Good news at last for councillor in battle against bowel cancer

Morpeth councillor Andrew Tebbutt
Morpeth councillor Andrew Tebbutt

A MORPETH councillor has spoken of his battle against bowel cancer.

Andrew Tebbutt suffered from a range of horrible symptoms for many months until he had an operation to remove a tumour in June.

Despite the great pain, he always had a positive attitude to dealing with the condition and this helped him and his family through the tough times.

And the Northumberland County Council and Morpeth Town Council member, who represents the Kirkhill ward, recently received the good news that the cancer hasn’t spread anywhere else.

He has now fully resumed his duties as the county council’s Executive Member for Corporate Resources.

Coun Tebbutt said he first started feeling seriously ill during March and April last year, although this was initially put down to stress and exhaustion following a mammoth effort between November 2009 and February 2010 to help put together and agree the unitary authority’s budget.

“However, the symptoms such as abdominal pain and constantly feeling tired persisted and I also started to have stomach spasms which caused diarrhoea,” he added.

“I had blood tests and a scan at the Greystoke Surgery, as well as an examination of the bowel at Wansbeck Hospital, and my GP reluctantly put it down to irritable bowel syndrome.

“From July and throughout the autumn the spasms still happened occasionally, but there were also three or four weeks of nothing.

“But in the middle of December, whilst the nature of the spasms didn’t change, the recovery period took much longer and over the New Year period I was feeling incredibly tired.

“I was referred to the Freeman Hospital, where I received quadruple heart bypass surgery seven-and-a-half years ago, and a gastroenterologist took some blood tests and gave me a mild anti-depressant.

“It has some side effects and by God did I experience them. It was just as hard coming off it, the feeling was horrible.

“My iron count was lower than it should have been and when I was told that I would need a colonoscopy, endoscopy and further blood tests at the Freeman in April, I immediately suspected that it was cancer as I wasn’t satisfied in 2010 when the tests were clear.”

After these procedures, a CT scan confirmed that he had a cancerous growth on the top right hand side of his bowel and he was booked for an operation on June 27 to remove it.

Coun Tebbutt, who has lived in Morpeth since 1984, said: “I heard stories from people who were diagnosed with bowel cancer 20 and 30 years ago who dealt with it and survived, but I also knew that many others really struggled and died soon afterwards.

“Obviously the stakes were much higher, but I decided to face the situation like I would with anything else — deal with it head on and with a positive attitude.

“I received lots of support and help from family and friends and I’m very grateful to my wife Joan, who herself is awaiting an operation on her spine, for being incredibly supportive.

“I received about 80 good luck cards and way over 100 e-mails and phone calls from neighbours, residents and people from both councils, which was a very humbling experience.

“The operation took a bit longer than expected because the growth had bled, but as far as the doctors were concerned the area was totally clean once they had finished.

“They took out 17 lymph nodes from other parts of the body and the great news was that there was no cancer in any of them.

“I stayed at the hospital for four days after the operation. While the medical care I received at the Freeman was brilliant, sadly the personal care wasn’t as good.

“I wrote a constructive critique to its management of how I expected to be looked after and I received a four-page response outlining their apologies and saying that they had changed some of their policies.”

On Saturday Coun Tebbutt will turn 65 and the family is asking for donations in lieu of presents to a cancer charity.

His son Richard is doing a sponsored slim, with the proceeds going to Cancer Research UK.

Coun Tebbutt, who is also a Governor at Abbeyfields First School, Company Secretary of the Mary Hollon Trust and a Trustee of Groundwork North East, continued with his council role during his illness but was unable to do his usual workload.

“At the moment I feel well and when I spent an hour doing various things in the garden yesterday evening, I realised for the first time in months that I was able to do that amount of physical activity and not feel shattered,” he said.

“I’m grateful to the council Leader and Deputy Leader for taking on some of my duties during this time and my two PAs for managing my diary extremely well.

“I received some help in the form of voice recognition software because bending forward to type on the keyboard meant I was pressing on the growth.

“And out of adversity has come some potential savings for the authority as it could very much speed up its processes. The technology was not considered accurate enough in the past but I reckon the equipment I have been using is 98 per cent accurate once it was trained up.”

The councillor indicated that he would be willing to speak to people who have recently been diagnosed about what it is like to have cancer.

He added: “I will continue to give a strong message about how important it is to be positive when dealing with any type of cancer, as it helps you and the people around you to manage the impact of the illness.”