Drug trial gives John new hope
A FORMER senior Exeter police officer has beaten a death sentence after taking part in a clinical trial at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital.
John Lilley, 74, retired Chief Superintendent of Exeter police, was told he had advanced prostate cancer, the killer disease having spread through his body to his hips, spine, shoulder, ribs and arms.
"I was given less than a year to live, but I was offered the chance to take part in a trial at the RD&E which involved 30 treatments, four weeks apart with an infusion of the drug Zometa.
"It was a no-brainer and I took the opportunity.
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"When I was discharged on the last day of May this year I was given the all-clear and put on a three-monthly watch.
"They never say cured but the cancer is under control.
"I had an MRI scan and they could hardly find the source of the cancer.
"My improvement has been dramatic. I went down to 11 stone 8oz and now I am over 13 stone and looking to lose some weight."
The good news doesn't end there, for within days of hearing from delighted hospital consultants, Mr Lilley and his wife Maureen, 77, learned they had won a holiday of a lifetime to Australia with the British Lions rugby team.
Mr Lilley said: "People couldn't believe what had happened. It was amazing. I was Mr Lucky. One of my golfing friends said he had to touch me so some of it would rub off – and he scored a hole-in-one!"
Mr Lilley and his wife, both keen Exeter Chiefs' fans, had entered the competition, run with the Chiefs by Land Rover UK, at Sandy Park almost as an afterthought.
"I suddenly received a call from Land Rover in London telling me we had won their trip to Australia and would be meeting and staying with the Lions and leading them to the second test match in Melbourne," he said.
"As an ex-copper I naturally checked it out.
"I thought it was a scam, but it was all true.
"They flew us out business class, put us up in top hotels, the same as the players, and on the day of the Test Match in Melbourne, we led the Lions' team coach from the hotel to the ground in a brand new £90,000 red Land Rover Sport.
"We drove right into the stadium, packed with 50,000-plus people, and were taken out onto the field. We also went to Brisbane for the Third Test and we able to see the rain forests, wonderful beaches and so. It was wonderful.
"It got better because on the Quantas flight my wife was voted favourite passenger by the stewards and they opened a bottle of champagne for us.
"Funnily enough when I had asked earlier about travel insurance I was quoted £3,800 because I was receiving treatment.
"After being discharged and no longer receiving treatment it fell to just £160 for two weeks' cover."
Mr Lilley, who retired from Devon & Cornwall Police in 1996, said his illness had started with a pain in his ribs.
"I thought like most people my age that it was a heart attack. I had an ECG which was clear but the pain continued so a doctor did a blood test – and told me it was a prostate problem.
" I saw a specialist urologist at the RD&E and he fast-tracked me so I had the MRI and CTC scans and X-rays all very quickly on the same day.
"I have to say I was really impressed and we have wonderful people at our hospital.
"The trial which was funded by Cancer Research UK and the pharmaceutical company Astra Zeneca, must have involved about 70 other people like me, all 55-plus."