A police inspector dad-of-one who had a small “innocuous” bruise on his ankle which “wouldn’t go away” was devastated to be handed a shocking cancer diagnosis.
John Haywood, 46, spotted the mark last summer but thought “nothing of it” and initially passed it off as a blemish on his skin that would go away in time.
The Greater Manchester Police copper mentioned the ‘bruise’ to his dermatologist in passing soon after and, as a precaution, arranged to have the mark examined.
Tragically, when the results of a skin sample test came back in September John was diagnosed with a sarcoma, a rare cancer that can affect any part of the body.
In John’s case, the ‘bruise’ which had appeared on his ankle a few months earlier was actually the first visible sign something was seriously wrong.
He was dealt a devastating double blow just one month later when further tests revealed a lymphoma, another type of cancer completely unrelated to the sarcoma.
John, who loves running and cycling, had to take time off his high-flying job as a GMP chief inspector and rely on the support of his wife Claire O’Rourke , 44, and their eight-year-old daughter Ellie.
He said: “If I had to sum up how I felt about the double diagnosis in one word it would be shock.
“I’m a very active person and I love my work and my family, so to hear that I was so ill was incredibly difficult.
“At that point everything changes.”
John said the bruise on his ankle, which he had passed off as being the result of a bump or scrape, was about the size of a 50p coin.
He added: “It was quite innocuous.
“It wasn’t sore or raised or itchy, it just looked like a bruise or maybe a burst capillary.”
The real reason for the mark appearing was uncovered after John’s dermatologist arranged for him to have a punch biopsy, which involves a skin sample being taken for testing.
After the diagnosis further tests followed, which tragically revealed John was also suffering from a lymphoma, a type of blood cancer that affects part of the immune system.
He was able to make sense of the diagnosis with the help of his wife Claire, a former nurse who now is a director for an NHS body called Greater Manchester Cancer.
John said: “Having Claire by my side was definitely a blessing.
“She knows all about what I am going through so has been really good at helping me along the way and giving me support and advice.”
The couple, who live in Bury, say one of the most difficult moments of the journey so far was telling their only child, daughter Ellie, about her dad’s illness.
John said: “We had to sit her down and tell her what was happening.
“We decided it was the right thing to do and ultimately I think it was for the best.”
John began treatment for the sarcoma on his ankle in December.
He had two surgeries on his leg in an attempt to have it removed, which can be seen a series of gruesome photos.
Unfortunately neither surgery was successful and he will now have to undertake a five week course of radiotherapy, beginning on Monday (July 27).
John also had radiotherapy for the lymphoma, which began in March, and last month he received the “amazing” news that cancer had been successfully treated.
John said: “To hear the lymphoma had been successfully treated was incredible.
“After hearing so much bad news it was amazing for something good to finally happen.”
To this point John’s treatment has been at The Christie, a cancer treatment centre, in Oldham.
He said: “Everyone at The Christie has been brilliant, I can’t praise them enough.”
Although John still has a way to go with his treatment and the prognosis of his sarcoma remains “unclear”, he is maintaining a positive attitude.
He said: “I know the road ahead is a difficult one but I’m maintaining a good, while also realistic, attitude about it.”
Anyone who wants to follow John’s journey can visit: https://twitter.com/haywoodgmp
Claire has been doing a number of running challenges to raise money for Lymphoma Action, the UK’s only charity dedicated to lymphoma.
Donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Claire-Orourke2020