The moment John Anderson got the news his cancer hadn’t spread was seen by millions on TV, now he’s back. Catherine Scott reports.
In January 2016, viewers of a Cancer Research UK TV advert watched the very moment a Halifax great-granddad was told that surgery for his skin cancer had been successful and it hadn’t spread.
John Anderson, 70, featured in Cancer Research UK’s powerful and emotive ‘Right Now’ campaign which included TV, poster and radio adverts, aiming to show the reality of cancer for patients like him, their friends and family. It featured a series of moving films – showing real patients in real-life moments – which called on supporters to take action in the fight against cancer.
The initial campaign was filmed at Leeds Cancer Centre and captured documentary-style footage of doctors, nurses, scientists, researchers, cancer patients and their loved ones to highlight the everyday reality of treatment.
Now, over two and a half years since the emotional moment we saw him being given that good news, a new updated version of the ad is currently being shown on national TV with extra footage that captures John today, relishing life alongside his precious family.
We see him laughing and playing at his daughter Paula’s home, with grandchildren Cameron, 14, Charlotte, 16, and great-grandchildren Oliver, five, and Charlie, two.
John was diagnosed with skin cancer after his partner, Freda, spotted a bleeding mole on his back in June 2015 while on holiday. Later, tests revealed it was malignant melanoma and John underwent surgery at Leeds Cancer Hospital to remove the mole and lymph nodes from under his arm. He was then filmed for the campaign in his consultant’s office being told he was clear of cancer.
The relief shown on his face, alongside that of his daughter, Paula, who had accompanied him to the hospital, was a magical moment that viewers had the unique opportunity to share with them.
In the time since he first appeared on TV, John, who lives in Illingworth, has had two knee replacements, moved into a bungalow, welcomed a sixth grandchild, Charlie, and in February enjoyed a big surprise 70th birthday party thrown by his family. He also travelled, for the first time and on his own, to Melbourne, Australia, to spend three months visiting his older brother Roy and his family.
But sadly, Roy, passed away just weeks after John returned home. John still attends hospital for three-monthly check-ups, where he continues to get that ‘good news’, and hopes to move to six monthly visits after his next appointment.
John and his family continue to be right behind Cancer Research UK’s ‘Right Now’ campaign and were happy to reappear in the new version of the TV ad. He has been overwhelmed by response by friends and the public.
The ‘Right Now’ campaign aims to pull people closer to the cause and show how actions taken right now can make a real tangible difference in helping more people survive.
“Having had cancer, I know all too clearly why Cancer Research UK’s work is so important. I appreciate time with my family and friends so much more and cherish the moments I used to take for granted – such as playing with the grandkids and going for days out with Freda. It was all nearly taken away from me.
“I’m so grateful for the treatment that helped me beat cancer and continue my life and that’s why I want to do everything I can to raise awareness of the power of research in beating the disease. I hope people are motivated to show their support and help save the lives of more people like me.”
John is now calling on people in Halifax to get involved. Taking the lead are his daughters, Paula and Michelle, and their daughters, Charlotte, Louise and Hannah, who are taking part in the Halifax Race for Life Pretty Muddy on Saturday.
One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives, but more people are surviving the disease now than ever before. Survival has doubled in the last 40 years in the UK. But to help continue this progress, Cancer Research UK needs everyone in Yorkshire to act right now.
Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Yorkshire, said: “We are so grateful to John for sharing these special moments with us in the TV ad and for the opportunity to catch up with him and see how well he is doing since we first saw him on screen.
“Every day, around 80 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire. 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.”
Halifax Race for Life Pretty Muddy 5k takes place at Savile Park, Savile Park Road, Halifax on Saturday from 10.30am.
It involves completing a 5k obstacle course
It costs £19.99 per woman to enter, and £10 for girls over 13.
To sign up to Race for Life, visit raceforlife.com
To help support life-saving research visit cruk.org