Olympic athletics official with throat cancer backs charity campaign

Ipswich athletics’ official, Paul Rutter, who is being treated for throat cancer, is urging people across the region to support Cancer Research UK’s ‘Right Now’ campaign and join the race to beat cancer.
Throat cancer patient, Paul Rutter, backs Cancer Research UK campaign which urges people to act ‘right now’ in the fight against the disease.

Two years ago, Paul Rutter, from Ipswich, was told by doctors to go home and spend time with his family after he was diagnosed with terminal throat cancer.

He had just received the devastating news that his tumour was inoperable, and he had only 6 to 8 weeks left to live, but today the 63 -year-old former builder, is continuing to astound his doctors with his courageous cancer fight.

Paul started as a field official for the Ipswich Harriers in 1999 and has officiated in track and field athletics across the world for the past 20 years. A regular on the international circuit, he was at the Olympic games in 2012 and was recently awarded Official of the Year by England Athletics for his inspirational and motivational work.

He said: “Everything is about measurements to me. It was part of my job when I was a builder and I took it into athletics. At an elite level just one centimetre can be the difference between four places, or a millimetre can be the difference between gold and silver.”

Paul has worked with the world’s top athletes and remembers fondly the Invictus Games in 2014. He said: “I was there in front of thousands of people and the pressure was just enormous. I was measuring the distance on the shotput and put my white flag up to indicate a good throw when I heard a voice behind me saying ‘good decision’ – there were loads of cameras and I couldn’t work out was happening but then I looked behind me and saw it was Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry.

“My favourite athletes would be Greg Rutherford. I do know Greg on a face to face way as I have been on many events with him and off the track he always says hi. Renaud Lavillenie, the French pole vaulter, is an amazing guy who won gold in London 2012. The professional way he performed to win gold was amazing to watch and also be part of. Also Jessica Ennis Hill for what she achieved in 2012 and beyond – every time I have judged her she has always been so focused but also a very respectful to officials which is always nice.”

But it was in 2017, just after the World Atletico Championships in London, when Paul first noticed something was not quite right.

He said: “I was going on holiday to Australia and New Zealand when I felt a tiny bump on my neck. I thought it was a tooth abscess as I recently had an infection on the other side.”

Paul went to his GP who suspected the bump was more than just an abscess and immediately referred him to Ipswich Hospital where a swab was taken for analysis and he was advised not to go on his planned holiday until the results came back. Two weeks later he was called back into hospital and told the devastating news that he had terminal cancer.

Paul said: “The doctor who delivered the news couldn’t quite believe what I had as I looked so fit and healthy. It was such a shock. I’ve never smoked, never been ill and I have no family history of cancer, but I was told I had stage 4 cancer. My wife and my daughter just fell on the floor.”

Paul was sent to the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. He added: “I was told my only chance was to go on a new clinical trial where they inject directly into the tumour with a new cancer-fighting drug.”

The trial worked for Paul and his cancer stopped spreading but last week he was told his tumour had grown and he needs more radiotherapy.

Paul’s experience is driving him to back Cancer Research UK’s ‘Right Now’ campaign and to call on people in this region to get involved.

In sharing the stories of individuals like Paul, the campaign aims to show how actions taken right now can make a real tangible difference to people’s lives.

Paul said: “My experience means I understand all too clearly why the work of organisations like Cancer Research UK is so important. Two years ago, I was told I had just weeks to live, but research has given me more precious time with my loved ones and I’m so grateful for that.

“It’s not good news that my tumour has grown but I live each day at a time. My doctor thinks if they can target the tumour successfully with radiotherapy there’s hope. Psychologically I have good times and bad times, but no one sees the bad times.

“Now, I want to do everything I can to help raise money and awareness. That’s why I’m backing this vitally important campaign and I hope people will donate or support in any way they can. Progress in the fight against this devastating disease relies on everyone who raises vital funds.”

He added: “My consultant told me that one day there would be a cure for the type of cancer I have. Whatever happens to me will be what it is, but what I don’t want is people to go through what I have been through. I want to spread the message that people should take care of themselves and not ignore any symptoms. I became very ill very quickly and lost 5 stone in 5 months. If someone had said to me two years ago that I would have throat cancer, I would never have believed them. If you suspect something is not normal get yourself checked out.”

Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, Cancer Research UK was able to spend over £56 million in East Anglia last year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.

Patrick Keely, Cancer Research UK spokesperson, said: “We are so grateful to Paul for showing both the realities of cancer and the positive impact research and improved treatments can have on people’s lives.

“Every hour, around 4 people are diagnosed with cancer in the East of England. That’s why we’re working every day to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease. But we can’t do it alone.

“We hope our campaign will inspire people to take action, right now, and play their part in beating cancer. There are so many ways to show your support, from joining a Race for Life event, to volunteering in our shops or making a donation. Every action makes a difference and money raised helps to support Cancer Research UK’s vital work. Together, we will beat cancer.”

To help support life-saving research, visit cruk.org

7 Nov 2019