‘GETTING lung cancer is not a death sentence – it’s made me appreciate life more now than ever before’.
Those are the words of inspirational Johnny Black who is determined to overcome the disease - and celebrate his wedding day.
The 58-year-old was dealt the crushing blow 10 weeks ago after doctors stumbled on a ‘dark shadow’ on the left side of his lung.
Remarkably, the diagnosis came during a chance X-ray of Johnny’s back for an unrelated issue at Queen Alexandra Hospital.
And on Monday, just over four months after first going to his GP complaining of back pain, Johnny underwent surgery to remove the cancer.
Now in recovery, the thankful photographer, of Napier Road, Southsea, is looking forward to finally marrying the love of his life, his fiancée Martine Halliday, in December.
And to celebrate his new lease of life - and his future wedding – Johnny has launched a fundraising appeal to say thank you to the medics at Queen Alexandra Hospital who spotted his cancer.
Instead of asking for wedding gifts, Johnny is asking for people to donate to his fundraising page, which is raising cash for QA.
He said: ‘I have had an unbelievable life and I’m not willing to die just yet. I feel I have got many more years left.
‘Now I just want to give something back to QA. The guys there have been incredible.
‘QA is a great hospital and it can get some bad press now and again but I’ve been so lucky to have such a great hospital on my doorstep. It’s something people take for granted.’
Johnny first went to his GPs at the Sunnyside Medical Centre, Fratton, in May, with a bad back.
He was sent to QA for an X-ray, with doctors spotting a dark shadow behind his heart, nowhere near the pain in his lower back.
A series of X-rays, ultrasounds and scans later and doctors revealed Johnny had cancer.
But far from breaking down, Johnny said the diagnosis had given him a renewed sense of life.
‘I would love to say I was shocked and that I cried. But I didn’t,’ he said. ‘I laughed about it, I was laughing in the consultant’s room. They were dumbfounded. They were saying “we don’t get people like you often”.
‘But straight away I just thought, “I would rather it be me than Martine or our granddaughter Rosie”.’
Johnny has since used his diagnosis to inspire others to talk about cancer.
And in spite of his illness, he was still able to remain active, tackling a park run the weekend before his operation at Southampton General Hospital.
‘I just felt like doing something like that would show that this isn’t a death sentence or bad news,’ he said. ‘More people die of influenza than they do of cancer.
‘Everyone calls it the “C word”. To me, that’s a four-letter word that I use when I’m angry but not cancer. I try to tell people to stop making cancer a taboo subject that we can’t talk about.
‘I tell my friends “don’t say sorry” because I feel much happier it is me with it than them, or if it was Martine. I feel mentally strong enough to cope with myself having cancer.
‘It’s made people realise that they can talk to me. I’m not contagious or making a song and dance of it. I’m not going to feel bad about it – I don’t feel bad about it. I feel very, very lucky that they found it.’
Johnny and Martine, 53, are tying the knot at Portsmouth Register Office, in Burnaby Road, Old Portsmouth, on December 15, before heading on to a family reception at Southsea Beach Café.
His wedding appeal has so far raised £465 of his £2,540 target for QA.
Dr Ben Green, consultant respiratory physician at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust said: ‘We would like to say a huge thank you to Mr Black for his kindness and generosity in raising such a huge amount of money for the hospital. We wish him all the best with his operation and a speedy recovery in time for his wedding on the 15th December.’
Johnny added: ‘I have always tried to live my life but I have found out what life is all about since getting cancer – it’s about kindness.’